Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Media Literacy

Up until my daughter, Olivia, started kindergarten she thought the car radio only broadcast news and information and her favorite DJ was Terry Gross, from NPR’s Fresh Air and that was absolutely fine with me.

My husband and I are big music fans, but once the babies came, it became too hard to constantly monitor the lyrics broadcast across the airwaves, so we either listened to NPR or popped in a CD.

It took but a minute once Olivia started school before she came home asking, “What’s a Beyonce?” Right there and then I knew the jig was up and Loverman and I would have to definitely step up our game. No, we cannot shield our kids from all the world’s evils or even the simply questionable, but we must provide them with the skills to process/decode the images and messages by which they’re being bombarded.

I’m currently facilitating a digital storytelling project with a group of high school girls and we’re exploring their conflict resolution issues. Every week we begin our sessions by discussing what the girls watched on television the previous week, and I ask each girl to provide a critique as to what they watched. I’m trying to get them to identify and articulate what they like and dislike aesthetically--- basically to develop a vocabulary that provides clarity as to what may turn them on or off. This has proven to be a bit challenging, and although this is an urban high school, it is a privately managed, charter school. The school is provided ample resources to ensure the success of its students and its progressive programs, yet in spite of this exceptional support, the students still fail to see beyond what's placed right in front of them, to dig deeper.

My girls’ use terms like, “I’m going’ to cap her ass if she doesn’t get out my face,” or “she better watch her back cause I’m packing.” When I question if they’re really threatening to shoot each other, or if they’re carrying guns, they (and the school’s administrators) assure me that they’re not and I believe them. What I don’t understand is why these young ladies have chosen to adopt this ghetto/gangster/gun toting’ lingo to hawk their wolf tickets?

The problem is they haven’t learned how to distinguish fact from fiction and they’ve bought, lock, stock and barrel the ghetto fabulous imagery that surrounds us all.

It’s imperative that we teach our children the power of words/images and the power we give our words/images once they’re released into the universe.

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