Today is the release of the movie “Flags of Our Fathers“, directed by Clint Eastwood, which I’m sure will bring about plenty of discussion about the role of the media when it comes to news reporting and war (reviews of the movie are already availble on sites like Rotten Tomatoes, and a quick Google search turned up about 3.5 million hits for the movie). A good article to get started with is Newsweek’s “Inside the Hero Factory“, which discusses how the government and media have been using images over time to manipulate reality, and how the more recent proliferation of technology has started to turn the tables (although one should wonder about the content of the article, given the media outlet that published it).
The article draws a comparison between World War II and Iraq:
It hasn’t been a conflict in which photographers or network-news producers have captured the “picture that can win or lose a war” in Iraq. It was a shutterbug soldier who thought it would be cool to document the fun and games at Abu Ghraib. What the Pentagon didn’t foresee, and couldn’t control, was the rise of new media—the unfiltered images popping up on the Web, the mini-DV cams put in the hands of soldiers that emerge in the recent documentary “The War Tapes.” We don’t see much of the real war on network TV, but the unauthorized documentaries—”The Ground Truth,” “Gunner Palace” and many more—come pouring out. Just as more people think that they get a straighter story from Jon Stewart’s mock news reports than from traditional outlets, it’s been the “unofficial” media that have sabotaged the PR wizards in the Pentagon. The sophistication of the spinners has been matched by the sophistication of a media-savvy public.
It isn’t difficult to point out here that it is exactly because of these types of developments that it is sooooo important for educators to learn about and teach with and about many forms of media, including the ones that are currently being labeled as being bad for kids. Examples like flickr and YouTube come to mind, but let’s not forget television and the movies (especially those controlled by the large media conglomerates).
Again, this is yet another example of it is not the technology that is the focus of teaching and learning, but the information (a la David Warlick). How are kids going to learn to make their own informed decisions if we don’t
show them there is more than one side to a story?
teach them how to look for and recognize bias?
give them the tools to effectively analyze and synthesize a variety of sources on a given topic?
help them figure out the (un)importance of source and authority (see David Warlick’s post on that one)
As a former social studies teacher, I can tell you from experience that teaching these types of skills is much more important, relevant, (and fun) than plowing through an 800-page textbook of facts (which, btw, are not always correct either!!).
More to follow on this one …
Image Credits: mcfarland0311’s photostream
(Flag Raisers on Iwo Jima, 1945):
(Marines in Kuwait, 2006):