Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Multicultural Literature Strategy: A Contemporary Issue in Education

            By the year 2020 about 50% of students will be minorities and 85% of U.S. educators will be white females, who differ greatly from their students ethnically, culturally, and socially, making it increasingly important for districts to adapt a multicultural literature approach to reading/literacy curriculum.  Through extending literacy programs beyond canonical fiction to include multicultural literature, it leaves behind character examples of damaging dominant/subordinate culture dichotomies, and instead includes a wider-breadth of self-governing positive role-models for people considered outside mainstream society and have been marginalized (Salas, Lucido, & Canales, 2002).  Delinda van Garderen and Catherine Whittaker (2006) summarize and point-out that culture/ethnic groups outside the literature canon have feelings of exclusion, but when they do see positive examples of their language and culture in the curricula academic achievement increases.  Literacy researchers have asserted the importance of multiple “text-to” connections to enable students to investigate texts to achieve intercultural and intracultural understanding (Glazier & Seo, 2005).  For this to occur learning environments must create openings to share connections, and in effect learn to recognize themselves and others as important parts of discourse.  With increased exposure to more self-governing positive sub-culture role-models groups gain “text-to” connections necessary to critical thinking beyond the classroom to possess autonomy in the decision making process.

            To be effective multicultural literature needs to be relevant, allowing reading enrich students development as active citizens capable of compassionately understanding human values, creative experiences, and “solv[ing] problems by reading and seeing how situations and circumstances are handled by others” (Salas, Lucido, & Canales, 2002).  This allows a student to directly apply a character’s solution to their own life, rather than characters whose problems are not similar, causing solutions to become abstract and unable to relate.  If not in familiar terms multicultural literature is unable to entice, motivate, and instruct on becoming critically literate, able to question “the social construct of the self” (Shor, 2009)  empowering all students to deconstruct messages & attitudes towards cultural/ethnic groups, becoming “redeveloped as democratic agents and social critics” (Shor, 2009), to make civic choices for societal change.  Empowering in this manner “students experience educational equity and choice in all aspects of schooling” (van Garderen & Whittaker, 2006) in preparation for post-graduate success in shared decision making and democratic citizenship.  Since students tend to hold tightly to their own culture’s attitudes, multicultural literature uniquely presents cultural-access texts filled with influences inspiring to re-imagine and appreciate the world from another cultural perspective, helping to combat or reinforce “peer group attitudes and values [that] reflect the attitudes of the local community” (Dressel, 2005).  By acting as a window on the outside world, multicultural literature engages students “because they relate to characters, identify with situations, and understand personalities or behavior, they come to the realization that there are others like themselves” (Salas, Lucido, & Canales, 2002) developing emotional intelligences, and broadening understanding.  Helping students develop connections, Janice Hartwick Dressel (2005) reminds educators that when identifying with characters students not reimagine characters in their own image – “an identification that steamrolls historical and cultural particularity” (Dunbar, 2013).  Failing to recognize that different cultures have “unique characteristics” (Dressel, 2005) that factor into how people live life, opportunities available, and view the world, turn uniqueness into stereotypes & nurture racism.

            For students to identify with the world and appreciate & value differences and similarities students must first discover their own identities.  While some students could be knowledgeable of their own heritage, others may not due to the invasiveness of White dominant culture.  To combat this occurrence multicultural literature aids in identity development by acting as mirrors and windows, providing context for important elicitation-response-evaluations.  As well, for all students, multicultural literature “teach[es] children about attitudes and behaviors that are valued in societ[ies]” (Salas, Lucido, & Canales, 2002) opening dialogues across cultures, and away from monologues, “thereby opening a way for student voices to be heard” (Glazier & Seo, 2005).  Jocelyn Glazier and Jung-A Seo (2005) remind adolescent ELA teachers that when a student’s voice is silenced it teaches that experiences, passions and biographies of those not part of dominant culture are irrelevant.  Avoidance of these dangerous dialogues effectively ignores social contradictions and complexities of daily life.  Dialogues around such topics provide students with a common bond, becoming not only academic stimulus but social interaction, allowing for deeper exploration to understand problems, and through empathy develop and enact civic solutions in teacher created “affirmative and critical continuit[ies] between how students view the world and those forms of analyses that provide the basis for both analyzing and enriching such perspectives” (Giroux, 2009).  Teachers create the environment by “not abdicat[ing] their own responsibility to be part of the [class] conversation” (Dressel, 2005) by simply not using a passive voice/language during ‘dangerous dialogues’.

            Multicultural literature also aide urban and at-risk students by presenting relevant texts for engagement, allowing students to see how the ideas, language, and identity of their ethnic group developed within a majority culture.  This knowledge assists in understanding history through their group’s experience, see how it is perpetuated, and inspire students to learn how to cause change, becoming adults who cause change.  As well as exposing majority culture students to minority/ethnic cultures, and being unable to change those cultures, demonstrates that blanket-solutions can’t be applied to any situation/culture and expected to work, showing students that solutions must be unique to that problem and culture; texts shouldn’t transcribe the majority’s problem onto a minority culture, when that problem may not exist, reducing the text’s relevance.  Understanding problems and the unique cultural roots of those problems, all students are better equipped for the new global society and economy.  Multicultural literature allows a ‘dangerous dialogue’ for White dominant culture students to see whiteness as a constructed identity, which forces students who are not racist to see how they benefit from white privilege (Dressel, 2005).

            As a strategy multicultural literature developed in response to pluralism, recognizing that culture influences the learning process of students and adapts to shifting demographics.  At its core multicultural pedagogy is student-centered, utilizing strategies to promote equal chances for every student.  Multicultural pedagogy is not just delivering information on other cultures, but rather celebrates individual and group accomplishments by using best practices “that empower students to learn and describe multiple opportunities for practice” (van Garderen & Whittaker, 2006), such as academic and personal mentoring for self-advocacy, and cooperative learning groups to promote critical thinking.  For this to occur teachers need to create safe learning environments, allowing for elevation of justice and democracy, with the goal of creating global citizens.

            Part of being a global citizen involves students being prepared for an increasingly diverse world.  Multicultural literature achieves this by having students become active learners through self-reflection and exchange of personal experiences, which augments student community.  For educators this means they’d be learning about other cultures, and hearing varied POVs, sometimes from the students themselves. 

            The many benefits that come with a multicultural literature approach does come with challenges.  The primary obstacle is the time necessary to continually adapt and rebuild lessons and curriculum, and adjusting teaching styles.  Time crunches lead to multicultural units that are “typically accomplished as an add-on to the regular curriculum” (Kirova, 2008) around cultural celebrations, and focus on superficial elements, like food, clothing and music.  The over-simplification of culture avoids critical examination, and so avoids open dialogues.  Critics also argue that a multicultural literature approach equates race with ethnicity and culture, despite “race [being] no more salient than ethnicity in matters of socio-economic and political inequalities” (Kirova, 2008).  This ends up down playing structural explanations in favor of discussing cultural differences.  Similar arguments come from other special interest groups, who believe that their particular group will become further marginalized, misrepresented and degraded, while raising up another group.  Minority groups and anti-multicultural pedagogy advocates are also concerned that over-simplification reduces conflicts to problems that can easily be solved by a singular conversation (Kirova, 2008).  As a result racism remains an institutionalized-concept, and not actions or behaviors of individuals, philosophies, and cultures. 

            Teachers easily combat this attitude through critical literacy, to build “skills to determine how books make differences visible or invisible, how they position readers in relation to differences…and which voices are silent or absent” (Dressel, 2005).  Multicultural literature makes sure that students are not just taught about critical thinking and examine values, “but actually to acquire them as part of their personal character” (Blum, 1997), for an ethics of knowledge.  For educators this requires “helping students build a vocabulary for discussing race, identity, discrimination, and oppression” (Dunbar, 2013), which aides students in seeing how writers situate readers to characters and texts.  Doing this in formal analysis helps focus dangerous dialogues of identity history and politics (Dunbar, 2013). 

            The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching (CCRT) is an advocate group that believes culturally responsive education alters and enhances a student’s view of the world, offering rich and complex opportunities for reflection and growth.  Through research-based professional development it helps school districts infuse curriculum, administration, and community to improve the progress of students considered outside the mainstream and have been marginalized.  Recognizing that much of multicultural education has focused on ensuring students are heard, and not on instructional support (Dressel, 2005), CCRT offers three foundations for professional development: Mindset (teacher knowledge), Skillset (classroom instruction), and Systemset (collaboration).  At the core of the three foundations is CCRT’s belief promoting hands-on, inquiry-based activities that have students reflecting “their own experience, language, and culture” (Peterson, 2009), creating an emancipatory curriculum.  It is, after all, those experiences that provide students the “basis for analyzing the social forms that reconstruct the subjective character of the stories, memories, and meanings that are already in place when students come to school” (Giroux, 2009).

            Taking inspiration from CCRT’s professional development model, one Mindset activity educators can participate in is autobiographical inquiry (Guillory, 2012).  Teachers write reflective journals on what they learned about themselves teaching & tutoring culturally diverse students, with the purpose of critically examining multicultural pedagogy to better understand “how various [identity] intersections create varying degrees of privilege, and recognize how this privilege impacts their teacher identities” developing deeper understandings of who they want to become as educators (Guillory, 2012).  An added hope is that teachers redevelop their teaching philosophies into dialogues and reflections with pedagogy “framed within the sociopolitical context of schools” (Giroux, 2009), and away from a sound-bite approach.

            Once educators have done that they are better able to invest in their students’ lives to create a culturally responsive best practices approach to education, like the Multicultural Mosaic Program at a New Jersey school.  The purpose of the program is to “not only infus[e] multicultural material, but also by encouraging feelings of tolerance toward others, and teaching the merits of accepting the universality of culture” (Brandwein & Donoghue, 2011).  The program also expanded teachers’ Skillsets by involving student families in having students learn about their own and others cultures.  The Multicultural Mosaic then implemented Systemset through a steering committee whose job is to collaboratively develop “multicultural education modules, met regularly to discuss implementation of multicultural modules throughout the curriculum and to ensure fidelity…and kept a binder with lesson plans used to provide multicultural education during the typical curriculum” (Brandwein & Donoghue, 2011).  At its highest level of implementation students are empowered to identify problems and concerns, and create action plans for viable solutions (Salas, Lucido, & Canales, 2002).

            By implementing multicultural literature educators reduce the social distance between the cultures by allowing students to gain understanding of each other’s differences, as well as discover and appreciate similarities.  Multicultural literature possesses potential for reducing prejudice toward outlier groups and promoting positive awareness of diversity through "transformative learning" experiences (Brandwein & Donoghue, 2011).  When teachers present multicultural literature for the purpose of social justice in the classroom becomes an open dialogue permitting students to accomplish the goal of cultural & societal development.



Brandwein, D., & Donoghue, C. (2011, September 1). A multicultural grassroots effort to reduce ethnic and racial social distance among middle school students. Multicultural education, 19(1), 38-43. Retrieved 24 2014, March, from library.esc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ986890&site=ehost-live

Dressel, J. H. (2005, May). Personal response and social responsibility: response of middle school students to multicultural literature. Reading Teacher, 58(8), 750-764. Retrieved March 27, 2014

Dunbar, A.-M. (2013, Win-Spr). Between universalizing and othering: developing an ethics of reading in the multicultural american literature classroom. CEA Forum, 42(1), 26-48. Retrieved March 27, 2014

Giroux, H. (2009). Teacher education and democratic schooling. In D. Antonio, M. P. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), Critical pedagogy reader (2 ed., pp. 438-459). New York: Routledge.

Glazier, J., & Seo, J.-A. (2005, May). Multicultural literature and discussion as mirror and window? Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 48(8), 686-700. Retrieved March 27, 2014

Guillory, N. A. (2012, March 1). Moving toward a community of resistence through autobiographical inquiry: creating disruptive spaces in a multicultural education course. Multicultural education, 19(3), 11-16. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from library.esc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1001530&site=ehost-live

Kirova, A. (2008). Critical and emerging discourses in multicultural education literature: a review. Canadian ethnic studies, 40(1), 101-124. Retrieved March 27, 2014

Leithwood, K., & Seashore Louis, K. (2012). Linking leadership to student achievement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Peterson, R. E. (2009). Teaching how to read the world and change it: critical pedagogy in the intermediate grades. In A. Darder, R. D. Torres, & M. P. Baltodano (Eds.), The critical pedagogy reader (2nd ed., pp. 305-323). New York: Routledge.

Salas, R. G., Lucido, F., & Canales, J. (2002). Multicultural Literature: Broadening Young Children's Experiences. In Early Childhood Literacy: Programs & Strategies to Develop Cultural, Linguistic, Scientific and Healthcare Literacy for Very Young Children & Their Families, 2001 Yearbook. Corpus Christi: Early Childhood Development Center.

Shor, I. (2009). What Is Critical Literacy? In A. Darder, R. D. Torres, & M. P. Baltodano (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (2 ed., pp. 282-304). New York: Routledge.

van Garderen, D., & Whittaker, C. (2006, Jan/Feb). Planning differentiated, multicultural instruction for secondary inclusive classrooms. Teaching Exceptional Children, 38(3), 12-20. Retrieved March 27, 2014


Monday, May 19, 2014

Genre Fiction for Social Justice

            With new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teachers are being asked to focus more on reading and writing skills as examples of students’ critical literacy skills.  As such a literacy specialist is becoming an increasingly important role in school leadership, “possessing the potential to unleash the latent capacities in an organization”[1].  This is because being a literacy specialist entails helping districts develop literacy programs, and helping support teachers’ lessons for 21st century multicultural classrooms.  By extending a literacy program beyond mainstream fiction to include genre fiction, it leaves behind character examples of damaging dominant/subordinate culture dichotomies, and instead includes a wider-breadth of self-governing positive role-models. With increased exposure to more self-governing positive sub-culture role-models groups gain “text-to” connections necessary to critical thinking beyond the classroom to possess autonomy in the decision making.  Critical literacy of genre fiction acts as a window on the world, so young adults can look safely beyond themselves and form emotional connections with the characters, showing that their feelings are quite common. Genre fiction puts young adults in other cultures and situations, seeing how others would deal with similar problems in different historical and cultural contexts, as well as understanding others’ feelings, developing their emotional intelligences, and broadening their understanding.

            For this to occur a literacy program needs to be relevant[2], letting reading enrich students development as active citizens capable of compassionately understanding human values, creative experiences, and skills in conflict resolution.  If not in familiar terms literacy curricula loses its ability to entice, motivate, and instruct on becoming critically literate, questioning “the social construct of the self” [3].  Critical literacy enables young adults to deconstruct messages & attitudes towards cultural/ethnic groups, becoming “redeveloped as democratic agents and social critics”[4], to make civic choices for societal change.  Genre fiction has the unique ability to present young adults with cultural-access texts filled with influences inspiring students to re-imagine the world from another cultural perspective and appreciate culture-originated solutions, to find unique solutions based on multiple perspectives.

            As post-modern young adults’ identity becomes tied to more specific sub-community and interests, educators must appeal to difficult to address personalized political and cultural groups based on cultural/historical/ethnic community.  As such, educators are being challenged to stay nimble and think creatively to not lose young adults to cynicism in citizenship.  This can be done by utilizing genre fiction as points of cultural access, exposing students to radically different cultures, not just Americanized variations.  Exposure to different cultures, and being unable to change the culture, demonstrates that blanket-solutions can’t be applied to any situation/culture and expected to work, showing students that solutions must be unique to that problem and culture.  Understanding problems and the unique cultural roots of those problems, students are better equipped for the new global culture and economy. 

            By beginning with more fantastical & familiar genres, and working towards reading realistic fiction by the end of the school year.  Following genres this way mimics the stages of literary appreciation, which begins with developing attitudes with enjoying songs & nursery rhymes, and talk about the television and movies they see; living in the twenty-first century requires making using of other literacies.  Enjoyment is the primary concern, so reading standards are undemanding.  The focus is not the principles of phonics and decoding, but learning that reading is a never ending task of the intellectually driven, either in their personal life or career.  Eventually young adults become more discriminating in their literature, because they begin receiving pleasure from reading and have begun respecting the story as a method to find out about themselves and their places in society as critical literacy develops.  Developing readers now require logical plot development, are no longer satisfied with stereotypes, and have moved away from the simple interest in what is happening to ask “Why?”  Young adults achieve this by reading biographies, personal essays, and journalistic stories about lives totally different from their own. They look for anything bizarre, unbelievable, weird, or grotesque: stories of occult happenings, trivia books, and horror stories.  When developing readers have gone beyond their egocentrism to look at the larger circle of society, book discussions can begin to have real meat because different interpretations are brought out as personal experiences are discussed against those shown in the texts, which closely linked to students’ intellectual, physical, and emotional development.

            Academically literature assists in the language, cognitive, personality and social development; aiding young adults in control over oral language through various forms of language.  Reading emphasizes growth in meaning and understanding evaluations; as well as plot, metaphor, characterization, theme, style and tone, in their critiquing.  Globally critical literacy allows exploration to understand problems, and through empathy develop and enact solutions; turns students into active citizens, who are capable of empathizing the problems of those that are radically different.  For this to occur teachers must create “affirmative and critical continuit[ies] between how students view the world and those forms of analyses that provide the basis for both analyzing and enriching such perspectives”[5].

            My capstone project is a series critical essays on genre fiction to include in an ELA curriculum to teach students global cultural awareness, by removing them from their known world through fantastical & familiar genres and easing into realistic fiction, then onto global fiction by reading a text that is written by and originally published in another language.  The title of the collection of essays would be “Genre Fiction for Social Justice in Multicultural Education”, beginning with an introductory essay to explain rationale behind the essays critically analyzing a text's effectiveness for the classroom.  The purpose of the critical essays would be to supply ELA teachers, and librarians, with a foundation of knowledge on texts to support for curriculum inclusion.  Through providing teachers with genre fiction options to develop a multicultural practices, I’d be “directly impact[ing] the nature and quality of instruction”[6] to meet global demands and evolving educational standards.


Giroux, H. (2009). Teacher education and democratic schooling. In D. Antonio, M. P. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), Critical pedagogy reader (2 ed., pp. 438-459). New York: Routledge.
Leithwood, K., & Seashore Louis, K. (2012). Linking leadership to student achievement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Shor, I. (2009). What Is Critical Literacy? In A. Darder, R. D. Torres, & M. P. Baltodano (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (2 ed., pp. 282-304). New York: Routledge.

[1] (Leithwood & Louis, 2012)
[2] Relevant - capable of speaking to young adults in grade-appropriate language they understand to enjoy reading
[3] (Shor, 2009)
[4] (Shor, 2009)
[5] (Giroux, 2009)
[6] (Leithwood & Louis, 2012)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Networked Publics: Creating Global Citizens through Cos-Play

            Media heavy environments are, according to Mackey and Jacobson (2011), “transient, collaborative, and free-flowing, requiring a comprehensive understanding of information to critically evaluate, share, and produce content in multiple forms.”  To support students in navigating our media enriched society multiple forms of literacy have developed based on information knowledge and proficiency.  None of the literacies, though, look at the production and sharing information as critical activities the way that metaliteracy does.
            Metaliteracy combines the commonalities of the traditional literacies, constructing an information based literacy that “supports the acquisition, production, and sharing of knowledge in collaborative online communities” (Mackey & Jacobson 2011).  Metaliteracy’s focus on the commonalities of traditional literacies, recognizes the differences between print & new media.  Students benefit from metaliteracy by being better equipped to identify intermingling between information, entertainment, and economics.  Being metaliterate aides students in post-graduate lie by knowing when information is needed, how to evaluate using critical lenses, and incorporating information by synthesizing materials (Mackey & Jacobson 2011).
            Metaliteracy is an umbrella literacy that combines the commonalities of traditional literacies, and when taught in the classroom allows for a springboard into further learnings of specific literacies
Thomas P. Mackey, Thomas P. and Trudi E. Jacobson, Trudi E. (2011).  Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy Coll. res. libr. January 2011 72:62-78

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Growing up Digital

            Neurotypical and students with learning/development delays (particularly those with ASD) learn how to maneuver through their technologies, and utilize them to the best of the technology’s usage. 

            Both groups utilize their smartphones and iPads/iPods for parallel reasons with different end results: neurotypical students use them to interact for socialization; students with ASD use technology to interact for communication.  This is most exemplified by the apps the groups use, such as neurotypical students using Twitter and Instagram, nearly abandoning Facebook except for when announcements (ie, awards or graduation) are needed.  Conversely, students with ASD whose parents believe they are able to handle (while supervised) social apps limit usage to only Facebook and email, because these are the medias that parents are most familiar with.  Due to the nature of ASD those students that do use the same technological device across settings, prefer to the communication tools of their technology while only in school.  This is similar to neurotypical students who frequently utilize their smartphones for socialization, accessing its educational value when prompted in class; students, though, are typically able to identify which app to choose that’ll get them the quickest results/answers (ie, Dictionary for word pronunciation; Wikipedia for dates and general information).  Parents of students with ASD found that when the school and home use the device consistently for both education and entertainment, did the student receive the full benefit of the device generalizing its applications to more community based interactions (ie, Tim Hortons, movie theater, etc…).  When this does occur parents and students (who are cognitively able to see the benefits) do see social development, either by increased independence on the part of the student (ie, able to order food on their own, express an opinion, etc…) or engaging in pleasantries when previously student would seemingly ignore others.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Critical Literacy: LV 2013 Fall Campaign

1.       Empowering

2.       Bold

3.       Superhero

4.       Stylish

5.       Successful

                Louis Vuitton’s (LV) 2013 Fall Bag campaign features white actress Michelle Williams.  She is in her mid-30s, stylish with little make-up (eyeliner and red lipstick are only obvious make-up), wearing a black spaghetti strap back-slit dress and nude high high-heels.  She has a serious, business-like facial expression, as she makes eye-contact with the camera by looking over her shoulder.  Ms Williams is standing, in a warrior pose, with her back to a close eye-level camera.  Bright artificial lighting removes shadows and creates mono-chromatic tones in background and product.  The product, a canary yellow handbag, is held over her shoulder by one hand, as it dangles in front of the black dress, creating a sharp contract, drawing the eye to the purse.  The aesthetics successfully gives Ms Williams the visual appearance of a female James Bond, unbeatable when armed with her LV bag.

                LV’s target audience with the ad is professional adult women who are (or wish to be) successful, affluent, and glamorous.  By using actress Michelle Williams, whose largest role prior to the ad’s production, was Golden Globe winning and Academy Award nominated role as Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn” (2011), the designer label is playing off the association, reinforcing the label’s famous exclusivity and Hollywood connections as a status symbol.  Exclusivity and status are played-up by the lack of text in the ad, because “LV” next to each other for “Louis Vuitton” (in large text in the lower right hand corner) is as famous as “BK” is for “Burger King”.  Smaller text in the lower left hand corner reports the exclusivity of LV’s product by saying it’s only available in their stores and website.

                In the short-term LV advertisement could be damaging young girls who are taught to associate materialism with power.  For the long-term, and for a grown woman, the ad is empowering because it adapts male power iconography and transforms it to something distinctly female.  James Bond’s briefcase contained everything the super-spy needed to fight evil, just as Michelle Williams’ LV handbag contains what she will use.  Batman had a utility belt filled with bat-a-rangs, and Batwoman (Kathy Kane) carried a purse with knockout powder filled compacts.  Both challenge gender stereotypes by taking what is considered distinctly “girlie” and transforming them into tools of empowerment, transforming the women into active agents.  As well, Michelle Williams’ entire body is seen, her identity is intact, and she is not reduced to a body part and an abstract identity.  The independent business woman, active in her own destiny, has been transformed into a super-spy/hero, and not a secondary role of damsel in distress.

                As educators the campaign can be used for social change by using it as an example of an advertising image that empowers girls.  Female students can be taught critical literacy to deconstruct a company’s advertisement and understand its message about women (or any culture/ethnic group) and their role.  For advertising messages to change, citizens can make consumer choices based upon those advertisements.  When this occurs consumerism is raised to civic engagement by actively choosing to “vote with dollars”.  To see more advertising that promotes a group’s own iconography as powerful, similar campaigns must also be successful.  If adult women, mothers, want to see advertising where women are active agents in their destiny, like super-spy Michelle Williams for LV, then people need to support products in their financial means with positive message-based campaigns.



[1] Photographer Peter Lindbergh

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Youth Civic Engagement

            Students in the new digital age are ready and willing to enter into the civic engagement through “increases in community volunteer work, high levels of consumer activism, and impressive involvement in social causes” (Bennett, pg 2, 2008).  Youths, though, are often disengaged by candidates who do not petition younger voters and their concerns, regardless if those concerns fall outside the government’s prevue, and more align with lifestyle.  Rather than lose youths to cynicism in civics and citizenship, educators must learn to tap into student media creativity for positive civic engagement.

            New medias empower youths to utilize personal expression within second life-style games and online peer communities to engage in civics.  While this is not the traditional route of allowing students to explore civic engagement, it does avoid, what W. Lance  Bennett (pg 4, 2008) refers to as, “a narrative of despair”, when news outlets report declining numbers of youth voters while overlooking unique creative contributions to the way society communicates.  A source of the “narrative’s” declining youth voters is school curriculums “stripped of independent opportunities for young people to embrace and communicate about politics on their own terms” (Bennett, pg 7, 2008).  Limiting the new media opportunities students have to civic engagement denies them practice on- and off-line developing identities and citizen skills (ie, teamwork) for later in life (Bennett, pg 16, 2008).  Educators need to think creatively, utilizing resource webs, to engage students with one another to turn personal interests into political concerns. 

            In the new media society, where individuals belong to several “loosely tied associational chains” (Bennett, pg 13, 2008), that bridge private and public spheres, giving people more control in producing and managing identity.  This is the opposite of previous generations who were assigned broad identities based on shared cultural/historical/ethnic groups.  As identity has become tied to more specific sub-groups and interests, politicians have been forced to “appeal to highly personalized political preferences that are more difficult to address” (Bennet, pg 13, 2008).  In an effort to reach the broadest voting base, larger segments of the population including youths.  Bennett (pg 15, 2008) points out that this has resulted in numerous nations adapting unofficial political cultures “in which young people are not asked to participate.”  The primary cause of youth exclusion is professional communications consultants need to control political discourse.  When control of the political discussion is turned over to the audience for inclusion, cynicism by participants is lowered.  This results in higher participation by youth, no longer alienated by exclusionary media practices.

            In the new media area students have created unconventional ways of communication to organize around activism and volunteerism.  Politicians and consultants, though, stubbornly stay with tried and true methods of communication.  Educators practice the same adherence to out-dated communication methods.  The result is the exclusion of youth in leading to cynicism in civic engagement.  To combat this politicians and educators must change their way of view youths' new communication methods, and include them.



Bennett, W. Lance.  (2008).  Changing citizenship in the digital age.  In W. Lance Bennett (Ed.) Civic life online: learning how digital media can engage youth (pp1-24).  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Role-Playing MMOs and Global Citizenship

                The article brings up an interesting connection between MMOs as a new media to better prepare students entering into the twenty-first global economy and its multiple culture-based perspectives.

                In the new global culture & economy students will be expected to be able to communicate and interact with people in other international cultures across multiple platforms.  Often times this will be done primarily through forums and telecommunications with cultures that will be completely alien to US students.  To be able to understand the validity of answers rooted in another culture’s experience, a twenty-first century global citizen must be able to examine a problem in a multitude of ways.

                Role-playing in MMOs is an engaging media that educators can utilize to prepare students for post-graduate life success, including teamwork.  MMOs engage a “player’s hunger for challenge and complexity motivates them to pick up the game” as Jenkins (2006, pg 23) astutely points out.  In many popular role-playing MMOs players are asked to create avatars which students apply their own beliefs and personality, drawing upon “multiple sources of knowledge, mixing things they had read or learned…and their own introspection…to create characters that are more compelling to them than the simple digital avatars” (Jenkins 2006, pg 28).  In this way role-playing games (RPGs) allow students to apply and analyze personality traits, and see how they impact social roles, similar to a classroom’s role.  When stepping into MMOs players are required to step out of their own culture and into another, and be knowledgeable & play within the foreign social conventions and culture.

                When educators embrace the role-playing aspects of MMOs for the classroom, treating second-life not as a distraction to learning but as a chance for students to try-out various multiple culture-based perspective solutions.  MMOs allow students to practice the required skill to re-imagine the world from another’s cultural perspective and appreciate the culture behind proposed solutions, teaching students to find solutions based on multiple perspectives.  When twenty-first century citizens are able to do this they are then able to assimilate the various culture-based solutions for unique creative solutions.

Works Cited

Jenkins, H.J. (2006)., Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF