Friday, January 27, 2006

On the importance of Media Studies

Last night I watched the Horizon program on Intelligent Design (BBC2) my usual state of tense, miserable anxiety (brought on by television discussions of religion.) The discussion of evolution and education aside, what overwhelmed me was the use of images, music and editing. In fact, there was very little science in what was supposedly a 1 hour 'science' program. The nuts and bolts of the argument about irreducible complexity was glossed over in a few seconds; the main focus was the story of the court case in Dover (USA) and profiling the key figures in the Intelligent Design movement. And here we saw Richard Dawkins interviewed in a booklined study; Michael Behe interviewed in what appeared to be a child's playground; we heard George Bush cut to country and western music and cheesey evangelical roadside posters...

... which led me to think that if our children are going to survive and make judgements in the coming century, they had better be as cine-literate, as media savvy, and as critical as possible when watching TV. In other words, don't they really all need to be studying Media Studies? In British educational circles, Media Studies is the usual shorthand for any course that is dumbed down, non-traditional, not literary, popular with kids and currently getting better pass rates than [insert whatever it is that one teaches.]

I have been guilty of this many times in the past, and I do think that there are too many talented and not so talented sixth formers going off to study media studies at universities with long names. But having shared an office with a media studies teacher I have changed my mind. Being able to read modern media is probably as important a skill to have in your toolkit as being able to spot a poorly reasoned syllogism or a misleading statistic. It would certainly help you with the average BBC2 documentary.

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