We live in a society that carries a large demand on having literate individuals. So far, in the Western society, a decent job has been done in ensuring that students can read and write. However, literacy is not confined to the 4 walls of the classroom or the school,
“[…] literacies exist outside of the world of the classroom and can and should be included in academic instruction.” (Morell, p.235)
A lot of students carry stories with them into class that may prevent them from understanding the literacy being discussed, simply because it does not incorporate any current or realistic points of view. So, those are the literacies outside of the classroom that should be included in a powerful academic instruction.
“[…] For any progressive literacy educator interested in reaching students and helping them to achieve must involve examining the everyday language and literacy practices of students to make connections with classroom practices.” (Morell, p.238)
With examining the everyday language and literacy practices, arises the concept of critical literacies. This form of critical literacy, takes powerful academic instruction through another dimension, because it’s not only using the everyday language and events, but it is comparing texts and understanding the underlying relationship between power and domination. Furthermore, it’s a mechanism that creates a platform where students can re-write their world. A literate student can be able to read and write, however, that doesn’t prevent him from viewing the world with a racist lens, a sexist lens, ageist, homophobic, etc. That’s why it’s important to understand the nature and the purpose of the literacy they read. Moreover, if the literacy they tackle in class is in conjunction with what they are experiencing outside of the classroom, it creates relevance, fuels passion and engages the students to thoroughly investigate, challenge and critically examine their world.
“By honouring and drawing upon local literacy practices and the everyday culture of youth, educators can prepare curricula that simultaneously increase academic literacies while also reaching into the worlds of students, facilitating empowered identities among these students, and making connections between their local practices and global concepts of educational and social justice.” (Morell, p. 235)
When I was in school, I remember my English teacher taking up the song “Where is the love” by the Black Eyed Peas and I feel that experience works very well as an example to what Morell is trying to say in his readings. My teacher used a hip-hop song to discuss with us literary devices and more importantly controversial topics (world peace, KKK, drugs, etc.).
An activity like that trains students to listen and observe carefully what is in their environment, then to assess the meaning behind it. Something a teacher might notice is students approaching her/him with other songs they heard that could produce insightful debate. An effective inquiry-based learning strategy would be to take up that song as a class and see if the students can critically view it on their own. I can’t wait to use this strategy in my classroom!
As a society, we’ve come a long way in regards to representations; people have learned to become more inclusive. That being said, there is still much work to be done and that starts in the classrooms of the children. As Stack and Kelly mention in their journal: children are inundated by the media with all kinds of advertisements - good and bad. Media influences their ideas. Therefore, it is important that schools become the hub for informed representations that are unbiased.
“If we set as one of our goals the ability of our students to read the world in multiple ways – to see things through a variety of lenses – we need to acquaint them with the lenses of colonialism and postcolonialism.” (p.87, Columbus did What?)
As a student, I was not misrepresented. However, I do recall some of my classmates experiencing ‘different treatment’ due to their race and gender. “Girls have the tendency to be better in art, whereas the boys are better with math. White kids are the best students and the best at sports, anyone else, especially the black kids don’t compare. Black kids are the trouble makers.” (Excuse the language, but that’s what was heard)
“Although we are far from living in a truly participatory democracy, many everyday acts of resistance go unnoticed and unreported by mainstream media.” (p.11, Stack & Kelly)
Based off that quote, there could have been some students who tried to resist these misrepresentations in my school, but were censored.
Ironically, it is also through the media that we can learn the different lenses to view the world with. For instance, there’s a video on YouTube from a Ted Talk (a nonpartisan non-profit devoted to spreading ideas) called “The danger of a single story” (link below) which demonstrates the consequences of always promoting the same lens. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian immigrant who was frustrated from seeing all the literature showcasing the picture perfect Caucasian girl who was good at everything. She wondered about the African-American girl who was just as talented. This literature is so prevalent, that her university roommate was so concerned about Chimamanda being uneducated and always listening to tribal music. When really, she was educated at the top schools and shared the same taste in music.
To sum up, media may provide misrepresentations, but it’s important to constantly search for the right ones. We must put out critical lenses to view the world.