Monday, January 25, 2010

Everyone Has a Point of View

The latest issue of The Journal of Media Literacy (left) is out and the cover features documentary film maker Ken Burns. An article inside contrasts the PBS television documentary style of Ken Burns with the movie theater documentary style of Michael Moore (right).

Education walks a tight line between being safe and non-controversial and being interesting enough to actually get students to pay attention. We like the polite, quiet style of people like Ken Burns and fear the independent, aggressive style of people like Michael Moore. Educators like the non-profit world of Public Television and disdain the commercial world of network television and the movie industry. We like to focus on "serious" content and complain about the commercial ads (or other sources of revenue) required to bring the content to us. We favor small, niche points of view and denigrate anything that is valued by mass culture and popular media. Can we really teach media literacy if we don't like mass media? Can we offer anything to students if we don't like the media they consume or produce?

The people who edit and write The Journal of Media Literacy, a publication of The National Telemedia Council, for example, are volunteers who don't get reimbursed for their work. There is some sort of pride in the fact that there are no ads or endorsements by businesses or other commercial interests in the publication. They feel "pure". As a result, the journal has a limited audience and doesn't have the same public exposure as the typical news stand publications full of ads.

How can education, schools, and scholarly endeavors survive in a culture of commerce? Will it always be the case that education has to stand with empty hands held out for some kindly contribution from taxpayers or foundations, while the commercial enterprises, who work no harder, longer, or smarter, enjoy year-end bonuses many times larger than a teacher's entire salary?

Click on the heading above to connect to The Journal of Media Literacy at the National Telemedia Council website. They will accept contributions and subscribers (if they aren't tainted by commercialism).

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