Media Literacy: An Urgent Need

4 Min Read  •  21st Century Skills

“Our philosophy is based on having kids start with their own lived experiences and then looking at other experiences and problems.”
“Putting the media in their hands is a way of helping them find a voice.”
“The goal is to help them be more critical thinkers and self-reflective as lifelong learners.” 
Those quotes are from an interview with Steve Goodman. Goodman is a founding Director of the Educational Video Center (EVC) of New York. 


The EVC trains teenagers in the art of documentary-making. Why documentary-making? It fosters the examination of social issues. It provides students the skills they need to find their message. And it helps them to learn to effectively communicate their message. In this program, youth learn to deconstruct media and construct their own. This gives them a solid education in media literacy. As a matter of face, EVC’s interns have had some impressive and inspiring successes!
Media literacy is crucial in today’s world where we are inundated with media in many forms.  The Center for Media Literacy defines it this way:
“Media Literacy is a 21st century approach to education.  It provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms – from print to video to the Internet Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.”

So Much Media

Anyone with a smart phone or access to a computer can create and publish messages. These messages can reach thousands – if not millions – of people in the blink of an eye.  Citizens need to be media savvy so as not to fall prey to propaganda and “fake news”.  This education in media literacy needs to start early and go deep through the years.
When I look at that definition of media literacy and the goals of the EVC, it is clear that the foundation lies in arts education, including media arts.  All forms of art are about expressing messages and points of view. They require the perceiver to draw conclusions and to analyze the message. The perceiver must also consider the point of view of the creator. They must also realize that life experiences will allow each person to perceive it differently. When students make art in any form, they find out how to communicate their own message. Of course, as they mature in their art-making, they are able to refine that ability.
The EVC focuses their efforts on youth who come from poor neighborhoods or marginalized communities. One project that they created explored the inequities in schools. How? By looking at the resources in two schools in the same district but in vastly different socio-economic neighborhoods. Anyone who has spent time in schools like these has seen it firsthand.

Arts and technology

We want the citizens of our country to be realized as human beings. We want everyone to have a voice and a platform and to have the skills to critically navigate their world. Yes? Then everyone needs a solid education that includes arts and technology.  Unfortunately, those two things are the first subjects schools cut when money is tight.  Many of our schools lack any art education at all. Those who don’t, have a very limited art education.  Many schools have antiquated or limited technology. Some fortunate schools may have great technology… but no one on staff to teach students and staff how to use it effectively.
The need for media literacy is real and urgent. The best way to make it happen is not only to equip our schools with the necessary resources. We also need to equip them with teachers who can support and leverage those resources.
It may sound trite but the lyricist for “The Greatest Love of All”, Linda Creed, had it right when she penned the lyrics to that song:
I believe the children are our future.  Teach them well and let them lead the way.” 
To summarize, it comes down to that our children need media literacyAll of them. Because the health of our society – and our democracy – depends on it. We need to teach them well because they will be leading the way.  All we can do, what we must do, is prepare them as best we can and point them in the right direction.