Film and photography purport to capture events as they really took place in the world, so it's always tempting to take them at their word.
But when multiple videos present multiple possible truths,
which one is to be believed?
Ian Bogost, The Atlantic
I saw it in my Twitter feed on Saturday, January 19. A still photo of a teenage boy in a MAGA hat and a Native American gentleman with a drum. I didn't even have to read the headline to know this was going to be a perfect storm.
We all know the story now. It took place on Friday, January 18 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. A group of teenagers from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky in the capital for the March for Life, attendees of the Indigenous Peoples March, and a group of Black Hebrew Israelites converge. What happens there is really up to what news you watch, what articles you read, and whether or not your social media feeds lean red or blue.
As we know, we all come to all media with our own interpretations. We all start from the point where we are. I have strong political beliefs. However, in that moment, when I saw that image in my feed, my politics took a back seat to my maternal instinct.
My immediate reaction honed in on the teenage boy in the picture in my feed because I am a mother of one. My son is the same age as Nick Sandmann, the boy in the video. My home is often filled with teenagers. I know this age well. What I saw quite clearly was a
. I didn't look at his hat. I didn't look at the Native American drum in the foreground or Nathan Phillips, the gentleman he was looking at. I looked at his face and thought "this is s
omebody's son." And I got nervous. For this boy. For his parents. For what the world would decide about this moment, these people, this picture.
I can't see the world any other way than as a mom of teenagers. Judge me if you'd like but we are all human. (Is it me or is that getting lost these days?) The book, The Teenage Brain* by Frances E. Jensen, MD has a permanent place on my or my husband's night table. We use it as a guidebook of sorts. In the book, Jensen says "the teenage brain is almost like a brand-new Ferrari: it's primed and pumped, but it hasn't been road tested yet. In other words, it's all revved up but doesn't quite know where to go. This paradox had led to a kind of cultural mixed message. We assume when someone looks like an adult that he or she must be one mentally as well. Adolescent boys shave and teenage girls can get pregnant, and yet neurologically neither one has a brain ready for prime time: the adult world." But here's the issue for us all: Everything is prime time now.
What happened on January 18 is yet another story that reflects the importance of media literacy education. It has all the elements to show the urgency of the work we do. It brings to mind the complexity of information and news stories. It begs us to question. It calls out for us to say "Let me find out more. Let me piece together a fuller picture. There is no way this is simple and clear cut. Because IT NEVER IS." I spent time the next day searching for more information. More video. Different angles. More perspective.
I listened, watched, read. (See below my signature for the articles, podcasts, and videos that stood out to me.) I shared a story about a fuller picture emerging. I talked to my son about his reaction. I lamented the death of nuance. And, to be perfectly honest, I felt discouraged. Why isn't it clear to everyone in this country that media literacy education must be a priority? Why is media literacy education still under-funded, under-resourced, and under-appreciated? Why, when we know our world has changed, do we not see the need and urgency to alter the way we think about education across this country? What are we waiting for?
I am clear that we are the ones that will make media literacy education a national priority. We are the only ones who can lead the charge. We can make the difference. We must continue to teach, advocate, and push for media literacy education in our schools, our communities, and our states.
This is the reason we need to gather in Washington, D.C. June 26-28 for NAMLE's National Conference; Elevating Conversation, Unifying Voices. Our community has incredible expertise, amazing energy, and unmatched passion for media literacy education. The NAMLE conference is our chance to come together, discuss, learn from each other, and move media literacy education forward. In February, we will opening registration, notifying presenters, and solidifying program details. The conference committee is putting together an incredible few days.
On Wednesday, June 26, we will be offering amazing pre-conference activities in various
locations with a kick off event happening that evening. On Thursday, June 27, we will be
spending the day at American University. Our
final day of the conference, Friday, June 28 will be held at the Newseum.
may have heard, the Freedom Forum - the creator and primary funder of the Newseum -
the sale of the building at 555
Pennsylvania Ave. t
o Johns Hopkins University. All
on-site education programs
and group bookings will continue through the end of the year. Their website, virtual classes, and community programming will remain available to the public, uninterrupted, for years to come. We are full steam ahead with conference planning and honored to have a chance to partner with NewseumEd on this year's conference. We hope you will join us!
If you can't wait until June to talk media literacy in person, we have two spring events we are really excited about.
Media Literacy Curriculum and Instruction
for Social Justice Education
Friday, March 1
8:30 AM - 4 PM ET
Loyola University Maryland
2019 BEA Research Symposium: Media Literacy: What NOW?
Sunday, April 7
9 AM - 5:30 PM
Las Vegas Westgate
Las Vegas, Nevada
We are co-chairing the 2019 Research Symposium at the Broadcast Education Association Conference entitled Media Literacy: What NOW? The Research Symposium will take place during the BEA2019 conference in Las Vegas. Thank you to Bill Christ from Trinity University for all his time and attention in putting together an amazing day of scholarship.
I am looking forward to all these opportunities for important conversation.
I have no doubt that 2019 will be a big year for media literacy education. We can't afford for it not to be.
Keep up the good work!
Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, Executive Director
* I highly reccomend this book to anyone who has a teenager in their life. It changed my parenting and, in turn, my kids' lives.
As mentioned above, I came across so much content regarding what happened on January 18 at the Lincoln Memorial. Here are some of the things that stood out to me that you may find interesting personally or might use to spark conversation in your classroom.