Home > Uncategorized > Media Literacy: The Road Not Taken in Public Education Where Standardized Tests and Safety Took Precedence Over Critical Thinking and Creativity

Media Literacy: The Road Not Taken in Public Education Where Standardized Tests and Safety Took Precedence Over Critical Thinking and Creativity

After a mob overpowered police and entered the Capitol on January 6, 2021, a hue and cry went up and fingers were pointed in many directions. Inevitably, one of the fingers pointed at the lack of civics education in public schools. But the problem with that finger pointing is that no one took the futurists in education seriously and no one took the forward-thinking liberal arts educators seriously…. because they saw January 6 coming in the 1980s and especially in the early 2000s when it became abundantly clear that students were getting more information online than they were getting in books.

To help me research a forthcoming op ed piece, I just downloaded a timeline prepared by Frank Baker, who developed the media literacy clearinghouse in 1998, and the very time I recall my recently hired Technology Coordinator typing the word “Google” behind a cursor to show me how a newly devised “search engine” was going to transform research. 

Here’s my over-arching premise: in the late 1990s and early 2000s public education found itself at a crossroads: it could, in the words of Marshall McLuhan, move forward looking at the rearview mirror or it could look ahead and drive based on the road ahead. The rearview mirror called for the use of ever-refined standardized tests to determine what knowledge students attained and how they could use it OR they could embrace the way learning was happening in real time— via the internet— and devise a curriculum using the principles identified by the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy, a group who in 2003 offered the following basic principles for critical analysis of media messages:

• Media messages are constructed.
• Messages are representations of reality with embedded values and points of view.
• Each form of media uses a unique set of rules to construct messages.
• Individuals interpret media messages and create their own meaning based on personal experience.                       • Media are driven by profit within economic and political contexts.

Needless to say, had national leaders chosen to emphasize those five principles over test preparation, chosen investments in technology instruction and the acquisition of personal technology over SROs and cameras in schools, we might have had a different way of thinking about the world in 2021.

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