Nov. 27, 2014 Update-Ferguson I’m still rendered speechless trying to wrap my head around media literacy deconstruction of the Ferguson Decision with kids, because media pundits keep trotting out ‘talking tips’ as if this were a hurricane headline. (AP Grand Jury docs and eyebrow raising state vs federal precedent here) Whether it’s violence from a school shooting or a riot over race injustice and inequity, the pundit pablum “remind kids this is an isolated incident, remind kids that they’re safe” no longer applies. It’s misleading, counter-productive and patently false, so journalists, please don’t just recycle ‘one size fits all’ tips for critical thinking…
You can’t treat the Michael Brown case (or Trayvon Martin or any of the countless others) like a natural disaster. Yes, this may be another seismic ‘earthquake,’ but to ignore it with ‘weather channel’ style reporting of visual outcomes without deconstructing the fissures and chasms just beneath the surface does the kids a disservice.
So far The Root’s article: Do’s and Don’ts for Teaching About Ferguson has a resource roundup of helpful context (e.g. Teaching For Change.org’) that doesn’t parrot generically. I also liked Motherlode’s “Talking with White Kids About Racism” and NPR Newshour’s August piece “How to Talk to Students about Ferguson” pre-dating the verdict. The emotional power of NFL player and father of four Benjamin Watson’s Facebook post went viral and Levar Burton’s outtake from To Kill a Mockingbird (above) was the only thing I could ‘tweet’ before going dark for a digital detox to process it all. And yes, the Fred Rogers visual below still applies, but I’d do some serious cherry-picking with media reporting and keep an eye on the stagecrafting lens to ‘spot the spin’ with distinct points of view. (including my own editorializing here)
Wishing all families strength, stamina, and sensitivity…As folks gather for Thanksgiving today, please remember the empty chairs at these tables, and feel the powerfully painful poignancy without turning away. It will make you squirm, hurt, and grimace with grief…but that is the first step toward change.
‘if it bleeds it leads’ journo gives way to the phenom of “good, going viral?”of sensationalized speculation and stereotypes and gruesome
Can a positive social media lens hold up amidst random incidents of violence and terror like today’s Boston Marathon, or will cynics paint such citizen journalism and social media sharing as Pollyanna reporting?
In my opinion hope and renewal should be in the media mix of factual hard-hitting news, it’s part of the story.
It’s no secret that I favor the view of Mr. Fred Rogers who reminds us all to “look for the helpers,” and then helps viewers himself with PBS talking points to deal with scary news.(more videos of the icon himself voicing these words from The Fred Rogers Center here)
Along these lines of seeding hope and inspiration for children and adults alike, I’m inspired by “13 Examples of People Being Awesome After the Attack on the Boston Marathon” which purposely calls out the heroes, and first-responders. There’s a strong implication that humanity could use some Windex to our distorted lens, not to put on ‘rose-colored’ glasses as much as view with a wide angle panorama offering a sharper, clearer picture of the true patriots here in this country on Patriot’s Day…to ensure the country is not eclipsed by terror and fear, but instead rallies with conviction.
Another article on HuffPo salutes heroic ‘first responders’ at the Boston Marathon in a photo essay, summing:
“It’s the people who broke down the marathon barriers to assist the injured seconds after the bombs went off. It’s the doctors who reportedly ran the marathon and then volunteered to help.It’s the runners who reportedly ran all the way to hospitals to donate blood…”
Another on Yahoo notes a spreadsheet posted fast offering housing, rooms, and an outpouring of help from the city’s residents in Boston.
And yet another article in The Atlantic magazine tells it like it is, (at least as I was raised in a counter-terrorism Naval Intelligence household) to “Keep Calm, Carry On” and not let freedoms cave into fear…
The author shares: “As the details about the bombings in Boston unfold, it’d be easy to be scared. It’d be easy to feel powerless and demand that our elected leaders do something — anything — to keep us safe. It’d be easy, but it’d be wrong….”
…”We need to be angry and empathize with the victims without being scared. Our fears would play right into the perpetrators’ hands — and magnify the power of their victory for whichever goals whatever group behind this, still to be uncovered, has. We don’t have to be scared, and we’re not powerless. We actually have all the power here, and there’s one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized.“
Finally, along these same paths of positivity, the Patton Oswalt post going viral on Facebook, Twitter and now in The Atlantic magazine gave me goosebumps for being ‘spot on’ and saying a lot in a little status blurb.
It gives voice to steadfast conviction and positivity in an American variant of Winston Churchill’s strong surge of KBO–Keep Buggerin’ On.
And though I found myself asking who IS Patton Oswalt? (admit I didn’t have the vaguest clue, I had to Google him) I will now sit up and pay attention to his credits far beyond being the voice of Remy in Ratatouille…with solidarity and a salute to his sage words that soothed me.
His sentiment deserves to ‘go viral’ as it packs a mighty wallop:
“…I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.” But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me).
This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.” —Patton Oswalt
I find that passage to be soul-stirring, gut-punching, fist-pumping positive validation on a day that could otherwise leave one limp as a rag doll…
I wish we didn’t have quite so many ‘teachable moments’ lately with children, but alas, we do. These are worthy media messages to share with kids…Mr. Rogers. Churchill. Oswalt. You? What will you share with your children?
“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety, or by the handle of faith. ~Author Unknown
Related Reading on Shaping Youth:
Talking to Kids About Headline News,Tough Topics & Terrorism
Bin Laden’s Death, Media, and Kids: Teach Your Children Well (comprehensive list of ‘terrorism specific’ convos to quell fears w/kids)
Web Resources, Talking Tips For Kids Amidst Violent Headline News:
My Daughter Can’t Get To Sleep/Scary News Stories (blog post/Mediatrician/Dr. Michael Rich)
Should We Shield Kids After Boston Blasts? (blog post/Nancy G.; fndr-NewMoonGirls)
Mom & Dad, Are We Safe? (blog post/Dr. Robyn “they don’t just need to look for the helpers, they can become them”)
Harvard EdCast: Discussing Tragedy With Children (faculty/expert podcast 15-20min)
Children Now: Talking With Kids About the News Excellent specific talking tips on terrorism and random mass incidents (complete with role play) and a solid roundup of web link resources on terrorism/tragedies of various kinds
Talking with Kids about Headline News (PBS Parents)
Explaining the News to our Kids (Common Sense Media)
NIMH Helping Children & Adolescents Cope With Violence and Disasters (Nat’l Inst of Mental Health)
Expert Tips on Talking to Kids About the Dark Knight Incident (health blog/Dallas News)
Create Your Own Media Headline (How media is made/interactive)
Teach Kids News (Grades 2-6)
MIT/Reconstructing: A classroom exercise; reflections on humanity and media after tragedy (deconstructing media w/analysis of sound/news footage, etc.)
Talking With Kids About Tough Subjects (Before everyone else does)
American Red Cross/Facing Fear: Free Downloadable Curriculum for K-12
PBS Teachers: Media Literacy Sites & Programs Great list of links, shows, topics, guides and more
Media Literacy Clearinghouse Frank Baker has links out the wazoo on multiple areas of specialization as well as allied orgs (see our blogroll sidebar)
How to Talk to Your Child About the News Simple overview/KidsHealth primer