An excerpt from Connections, Media Literacy and Policy issue, April 2014

Erin McNeillCML: Why did you start Media Literacy Now?

EM: As I was writing and getting to know people, I was talking to a lot of people across the country. And I saw that, while many educators were working in the field trying to help kids, to make sure that they understood media, and could develop skills in critical analysis, they weren’t really getting a lot of help from other sources, like policymakers and parents. Without demand from parents and policy makers, teachers are fighting the system.

I know a 5th grade teacher in my town in Massachusetts who was developing her own media lit curriculum in her 5th grade glass. She set out to do that, to build her unit from materials online–from scratch. She had to use her own independent time during the school year. She didn’t want to fight her administrators by coming into conflict with the standardized testing near the end of the year. She taught her unit right after that. And it worked really well. The kids were really engaged at a time of year when they’re usually not engaged at all. They were very interested. I was there, and watched, and took pictures. The kids had their hands up all the time.

From there I talked with staffers at the state house that I knew who were working for Katherine Clark, one of our state senators at the time. I talked to them about how great it would be to have people in the statehouse talking about this. What if we had a hearing on media literacy education? There’s just no public policy discussion on media literacy; it’s so rare. This would be a chance to open a discussion, have a hearing, a debate. That would be a giant step forward.

We worked together to write a bill, which was in the beginning of 2011, with Katherine Clark, who’s in Congress now. She introduced a bill, which went to the Education Committee, and then to a hearing. We had a bunch of people to testify in favor of the bill, eleven or twelve people. They were there talking about why media literacy is so important, telling the chairwoman of the Education Committee why media literacy was so critical and urgent. It was a great day, and also an opportunity. I thought we opened a lot of eyes on the committee. It was so new for so many people. It’s not a household word. A lot of people don’t know what it is. And when the committee members heard that’s it not about censorship or blocking media but helping kids understand messages they’re bombarded with, I think it opened a lot of eyes.

Read more at: Connections, Media Literacy and Policy issue, April 2014

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