The term “media literacy” probably does not mean much to people outside the education field. It is a vital subject usually taught by civics, government or history teachers to students in the sixth or seventh grades.
Unfortunately, the same people who are introducing Critical Race Theory into education are hijacking media literacy. Lacking much originality, they call it Critical Media Literacy.
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The idea behind media literacy is simple enough. Modern students need to learn about how the media work. The lessons can discuss the differences between entertainment and information. Students learn what makes a particular story newsworthy and the difference between a news story and an editorial. The classes also deal with the nature of opinion, advertising, social media and privacy rights.
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The two pioneers of media literacy were F. R Leavis and Denys Thompson. They wrote Culture and Environment in 1973. The book describes education as “a weapon and a tool-kit—a weapon to resist the whims of rampant consumerism; and a tool-kit to discriminate between, on the one hand, the quick-fix sensationalism of mass media and advertising, and on the other, the best of what has been written, shown or performed.”
I first became aware of media literacy when I was a newly-minted teacher in 1984. I was teaching seventh-grade Civics in North Miami Beach, Florida. Many of my students were Hispanic, Jamaican or Dominican. Many of them had limited English skills. Yet, they all watched American television.
So, I was a big believer in Media Literacy and remain so today. My twelve- and thirteen-year-old students were bombarded with media messages long before the Internet and social media arrived with such force. Today, our young people make decisions based on information from “influencers” on Twitter, YouTube and social media.
Without some guide, too many young people, especially those who lack parental guidance, are “sitting ducks.”
Deceived by Critical Theory
Unfortunately, the Critical Race Theory “foxes” have invaded the Media Literacy “henhouse.” They are taking our children into their dismal educational swamp. Presenting themselves as neutral educators, they create the propaganda that Media Literacy should help students avoid.
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The professional organization for these teachers is the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). The description on its website is similar to the material I read in the mid-eighties. “The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) is a professional association for educators, academics, activists, and students with a passion for understanding how the media we use and create affect our lives and the lives of others in our communities and in the world. The NAMLE vision is to help individuals of all ages develop the habits of inquiry and skills of expression that they need to be critical thinkers, effective communicators and active citizens in today’s world.”
The Educators’ “Social Justice” Agenda
However, the description of its 2021 national conference carries a very different message. The telltale theme was “Media Literacy + Social Justice.” The phrase “social justice” has become a slogan for the “woke” among us.
The content of the NAMLE event shows that the catchphrase was not a ploy used to get attention. The theme reflects CRT rhetoric. The description reads:
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“[T]he year 2020 put social justice and racial equity at the forefront of most of our public discourse. This was due to the continuing contentious national political landscape, the inhumane treatment of immigrants, the amplification of educational and digital inequities, the growing environmental crisis, and the senseless murders of Black people. The ensuing uprising brought millions to the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to demand the defunding of the police in order to establish racial justice and reimagine public safety.”
It does not take any media literacy skills to decipher this message. It embraces front and center the whole panoply of leftist causes.
The “opening keynote” address on July 16 removes any doubt about NAMLE’s current ideological bent. Its topic was “The 1619 Project Education Network,” named after the highly controversial publication that interprets and distorts all American history as a plot to impose slavery on as many people as possible.
The two presenters were Fareed Mostoufi of the Pulitzer Center and Nikita Stewart of the New York Times. According to the Pulitzer Center webpage, “The Pulitzer Center is proud to be the education partner for The 1619 Project, which is inaugurated by a special issue of The New York Times Magazine.” Mr. Mostoufi is one of the authors of a set of “curricular resources” for teachers who want to use 1619 in their classrooms. Miss Stewart wrote one of 1619’s lead essays, “Why Can’t We Teach This?”
A Marxist Program
The media literacy picture gets yet worse. One of its standard works is The Critical Media Literacy Guide. The book’s authors are on the faculty of UCLA. Douglas Kellner teaches the Philosophy of Education, and Jeff Share is a faculty advisor in the Teacher Education Program.
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According to a recent City Journal article, “Kellner and Share cite Marx’s observation that ‘in every epoch, the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling classes’ to argue that media literacy should be taught through the lens of power and identity groups. Critical media literacy seeks to undermine what it sees as the dominant institutions of Western capitalist society—or, to use the academic jargon, to foster ‘counter-hegemonic alternatives.’”
Radicalizing America’s Schools
The metamorphosis from “Media Literacy” to “Critical Media Literacy” is a microcosm of the leftist capture of America’s classrooms—public, private, and parochial. Leftist and Marxist ideologues have overpowered a discipline designed to help students make their own decisions.
The radicals did not need to send someone into every classroom and convince teachers to sign on to their cause. The points of contact were in the professional organizations and the university schools of education.
The professional organizations—and there is at least one for every discipline—set the agenda. The local school systems look to these “experts” for guidance. The education professors codify the organizations’ radical ideologies into texts for university classrooms. The wide-eyed young people who want to become teachers drink deeply from this polluted stream and accept these theories as fact. They naively carry these ideologies into America’s classrooms, never knowing that they are pawns in the leftist campaign to change America by pushing the nation leftward.
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Parents should insist with teachers to ditch Marxist egalitarian ideology and incorporate the Catholic Church’s true worldview, that God instilled inequality throughout creation. These God-created inequalities are to be loved, for they reflect God in His anti-egalitarian and hierarchy-loving spirit.
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