A few weeks back, while speaking to an elementary school about the influence of toy advertising, a fifth-grader raised her hand and asked: "Mr. Baker, what does deceptive mean?" I had used that adjective to describe specific techniques used by the people who create commercial messages. I went on to define it for her and urged her teachers to add that word to their ever-growing vocabulary list.
The techniques of persuasion in advertising are just one element in teaching media literacy to our young people. In 1999, in a partnership with Rutgers University media professor Robert Kubey, we scoured all 50 state’s teaching standards, finding elements of media literacy in three major curriculum areas: English/Language Arts, Social Studies/History, and Health.
The good news is that elements of media literacy are in most states’ standards. The bad news is that media literacy is not being taught. Most teachers have not received any formal training in how to integrate critical thinking and viewing about media messages. Most school libraries have little in the way of texts for teachers or students.
The media are attractive to young people; they watch, listen to, and even wear media. Yet, the American education system is, for the most part, blind to the fact that media are languages which need to be taught and understood too. For those who want to know more, I hope you will log onto the Media Literacy Clearinghouse website.