MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION IN CYBERSPACE
Cyberspace is a virtual community composed of all the internet-connected computers in the world. While the internet has become a place of impossible levels of information, boiled down the internet is based on anonymity and a binary system of coding. This poses new challenges and opportunities for a new generation, a generation with thousands of years of history and information, ideas, and concepts at their disposal. All of this information, readily available at their fingertips, a universal equalizer as text does not convey skin color or any other determining factor that could distinguish them as discriminatable targets - every identity online is exactly the same.
As an equalizer, this allows every culture and race to come together and talk about subjects without fear of discrimination based on trivial aspects of their person.
As an anonymous entity, every online user is capable of being tormented and harassed at every hour of the day due to constant connectivity.
The issue of online safety is something that needs to be considered and discussed heavily as technological harassment, “cyber-bullying” is now a major player in teenage behavior. This must be addressed, especially in this world of technological dependance.
MASS MEDIA AND STEREOTYPES
Mass media deals with stereotypes quite often. Every cop is either lazy, corrupt, or a loose-cannon with his job on the line. Every inner-city black man is a gang member. Every asian is good at math. Every European smokes. Every French person has a brown grocery bag with a large baguette poking out of the top. These stereotypes are everywhere and are detrimental to how the world views itself and each other. There are a few stages in which things are contributing to stereotype reinforcement.
1.) Reality - Some Jews are good at business. Some Muslims are fanatical terrorists. Some Christians are anti-semitic. Some Southerners are racist. Some men are sexist. Some women are back-stabby. BUT NOT ALL OF THEM. These are vague generalizations about SOME PEOPLE and do not offer cohesive understandings of a people or culture as a whole.
2.) Seminal Treatment - Next comes a particular group becoming vastly, wildly popular in mainstream media, thereby adding vague cultural misrepresentations to the public to consume.
3.) Widespread Imitation - Following seminal treatment is widespread imitation, which is exactly what it sounds like. Mediamakers recognize that the new “stars of the media” are creating fertile ground of which to be tilled.
4.) Caricature/Humor/Parody - Eventually mediamakers revert back to making fun of the established patterns that have arisen based on the media-created stereotype. (Cops eating donuts, goth kids cutting themselves, etc…)
WORKING WITH MEDIA
It is the job of the educator to know what is out in the world for media absorbtion, though that may be extremely difficult. Knowing what is out there and being able to relate information back to what the students have already grown to understand (true or false) is important. Encouraging students to think analytically and critically about what they consume for media is one of the most important things that can be taught as it will help shape students into who they will eventually become. Students can find fallacies or problems or misconceptions in local newspapers or news reports and then give these findings to mediamakers. This can provide valuable real-world experience and generally provide a boost for students in understanding what lessons the educator is providing.
WORKING WITH PARENTS
Parents play an integral role in the media absorbtion of the child. It is through the parent that media flows into the household (largely, at least at first), and it is the job of the parent, sometimes unknowingly, to be multicultural spin-doctors. While this can be very difficult for educators to effectively do, it is important for students’ parents to have some understanding of what they can do to enforce the lessons the educator is teaching the student.
It will always be important to be up-to-date on technology and media influences in the world. As adults, students will rely on the media for information, and being able to determine if the information is credible is a skill that educators must learn first to effectively teach their students this information.
STUDENT ANALYTICAL THINKING
It is important to constantly encourage students to thinking analytically and critically about the media that they consume. While the shows they watch and the information that they absorb may be correct and good information, other things may not be, and it is important to have students be able to seperate the two. And while media does touch upon multicultural topics, largely it is an incidental situation and is rarely touched upon again.
USING MEDIA AS A CURRICULAR RESOURCE
By investigating what media will cover (i.e. Spongebob dealing with segregation, or something…?), educators can segue this media presentation into classroom discussion.
STUDENT MULTICULTURAL LEARNING
Knowing what preconcieved notions exist in student bodies is important as it can help educators dispel myths and wrong information. Having students write down what they know about a particular topic can help the educator know where to start discussions on topics by addressing the information the students have given them and knowing where each student stands in the field of understanding the topic. Some students may have extensive knowledge (good or bad), while others may be truly blank slates.
Educator Self Assessment
As teachers prepare to approach any multicultural topic, they should take stock of their own media exposure and address whatever preconceived notions that they may have, as well as any potential ones the students may have.
Remember - No one is immune to media multicultural teachings, good or bad. But educators can become more alert to that curriculum.
1.) Assessing one’s own media multicultural learning
2.) Dealing with student multicultural learning
3.) Using mass media as a cirricular resource
4.) Developing student analytical thinking about media
5.) Professional development concerning the media
6.) Working with parents as multimedia co-teachers with the mass media curriculum
7.) Working directly with the media
8.) Combatting stereotypes and sterotyping
Multiculturalism in Schools
Educators, by sheer virtue of the fact that they are educators, cannot determine when or if multicultural education will happen. It will. The question is how will they work with multicultural entertainment in conjunction with Mass Media.
Educators have responded to this issue in several ways.
1.) Recognition - Media will be a part of the learners’ lives. This is an unavoidable reality and needs to be worked with accordingly as media influences will invade the classroom. The learners history with any given subject is going to be largely media based, and the media that deals with the subject is going to vary greatly. If one students first interaction with race is through Sesame Street’s vision of tolerance, another student’s first interaction with race will be the Rodney King beatings and the media’s attempt at discussing race relations in a civil manner.
2.) Attention - To what the media being consumed is. Even if students have not covered the subject material in school, students may be aware of race-relations in 1920’s America because of stuff seen on television. Be aware of where students are getting this information, and be able to dispel fallacies the students may have.
3.) Exploration - It become’s important eventually to seek out diversity/multiculturally rich programming that the students may be watching found through internet sources, word-of-mouth, or random exploration through television/film programming.
4.) Investigation - Educators may believe that this multicultural programming may need to be analyzed beyond a cursory glance. These insights will help educators lead classrooms by relating information back to previously absorbed media and possibly dispelling preconcieved notions of multicultural understandings.
Several styles of themes are found in media - Ongoing, recurring, transitory, and single-shot.
Ongoing - Certain diversity-related themes are found all the time with alarming regularity: immigration, homosexuality, spoken language, etc…
Recurring - Certain individuals or groups constantly attract media attention (Miley Cyrus, Iran, the Westboro Baptist Church) on a recurring, but not always consistant basis. We may go weeks without hearing about how “God Hates Fags” from the WBC or we may go weeks without seeing Miley Cyrus’ tongue.
Transitory - Some diversity-related things get brought up and then fall back into obscurity again, almost like they had a shelf-life designed into the story. Paula Deen and her 40 year old racist remark is a perfect example of a transitory media theme.
Single-Shot - Comparable to short mini-biographies about famous people, these quick snippits of information provide marginal information about a given topic.
Media is everywhere, and upon consumption of media, we are learning (consciously or unconsciously). Textbooks, movies, television, sports broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, etc… All of these are capable of dispersing information and changing viewpoints. All of these are also EVERYWHERE we go - from Malls to movies to highway billboards to magazine ads to tv commercials to radio ads to news broadcasts to the internet… wow. Just wow. Media is everywhere, constantly shaping our beliefs and values and ideas.
"The Godfather is a fictional account of the activities of a small group of ruthless criminals. It would be erroneous and unfair to suggest that they are representative of any particular ethnic group.”
Because Corleone, Clemenza, Barzini, Tattaglia, and Fanucci aren’t CLEARLY Italian names.
This disclaimer became a model for media’s self-absolution. But do these rather meaningless words stop the presentation’s message and learning possibilities? No. It doesn’t. These worthless disclaimers do nothing but allow hideous levels of violence and worse onto television screens and allow the networks to get away wth it.
THE COSBY SHOW
Not everything seen on TV is a terrible model for human behavior. The best example is that of the Cosby Show, where standard ideas of proper race placement (e.g. Blacks in the ghetto) were thrown out, allowing for a major shift in televised normalcy. Along with racial issues, this show dealt with everything that went along with the race issues (A black, educated, financially successful family? UNBELIEVABLE!) in a time when multiculturalism was just beginning to really gain ground. This show epitomized the Afro-American Dream of full acceptance and assimilation into US society.”(Paula Matabane, 1988).
This show did an excellent job of bringing multicultural education into America’s homes.
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