Media Literacy

One crucial step in increasing awareness of corporate influence in our society is media education. The United States has lagged significantly behind many other countries in K-12 media literacy education, but more teachers, educational leaders, and others are recognizing this need in the United States. All 50 states now have K-12 media-related standards on the books, and several national organizations have emerged over the past few years to improve young people’s understanding of the media.

“Media literacy” is an increasingly recognized term in the field of education. Barry Duncan, co-author of the Media Literacy Resource Guide (Ontario Ministry of Education, Toronto, ON, 1989), states that “Media Literacy is an informed, critical understanding of the mass media. It involves an examination of the techniques, technologies and institutions that are involved in media production, the ability to critically analyze media messages and a recognition of the role that audiences play in making meaning from those messages.” Media literacy is, in short, critical thinking about the mass media.

We believe (as do many other interested individuals and organizations) that media literacy education should emphasize not only interpretation and analysis of media messages but also a careful examination of the institution of the mass media and its relation to large corporations. For example, it’s important to understand the persuasive strategies used in a political or public issue advertisement, but it’s also important to know who sponsors the ad and what those sponsors’ primary missions and motives are. Kids and teenagers can understand these concepts, and they should be given the opportunity to develop their critical thinking skills about the mechanisms at work to inform, influence, and frame their lives now and in the future.

You’ll find here some media literacy student activities we’ve written plus links to related Web sites. Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or just interested in promoting critical thinking about the media, please use these resources and feel free to contribute your own ideas. We hope you’ll find us a valuable resource for teaching others about the media, its influence on society, and its corporate relationships.

See some sample critical thinking classroom activities here.