Student wellbeing policies usually make reference to a ‘culture of inclusiveness’. This culture is one where differences do not lead to discrimination, and where every child feels equally safe and valued.
I have been thinking lately about the role of media literacy in all of this. I believe it has a big role to play, primarily because it fosters within students the ability to detect and form responses to instances of marginalisation and prejudice in the media. This is particularly important in the case of more covert instances, such as widespread and generally socially sanctioned regressive gender roles/stereotypes (e.g. women are emotionally sensitive and men are not).
These things shape the world we wake up into each day, and although is very hard to make empirical links between these messages and social problems (like sexism and violence against women), I’m happy to go out on a limb and suggest it does nothing to help.
Identifying our blind spots
The other important thing to say about media literacy is that it encourages healthy discussions about our own blind spots, as human beings who are hard-wired to take cognitive shortcuts, such as stereotyping (which is not the same thing as prejudice). It throws open the doors for students to become more conscious of their own inadvertent and somewhat unavoidable participation in certain cultural structures and social sanctions that, whilst not ‘bad’ in themselves, do facilitate the perpetuation of media presentations that marginalise groups.
As an ‘information educator, I cannot stress how important information and media literacy is to the development of students’ sense of social justice.
Media literacy & inclusiveness in the curriculum
It is only when these skills are explicitly embedded into the curriculum, that our practice as information educators is able to achieve this level of reach, across a whole school. A wellbeing policy and a curriculum must be worked together, not handled separately as mutually exclusive documents. This really is an essential part of addressing inclusiveness. It’s part of the practical application side of policy implementation.
Something to raise at the next curriculum meeting perhaps? As information educators and advocates of equality and inclusiveness, the responsibility to articulate these links falls to us. It’s our ‘area’.
When was the last time you updated your media literacy programme to accommodate the latest changes in your school’s Student Wellbeing Policy?