Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop writes about [de] Culture, the new education programme from Digital Explorer, supporting Citizenship and English teachers with resources on stereotypes, identity and the media
I found teaching Citizenship really hard. I wanted my pupils to ‘get it’, to realise that what we talked about in the classroom was actually happening and mattered. Citizenship, far from being a ‘doss’ lesson, allows pupils to tackle some of the big issues that are happening in the world (or right around the corner) and are often missed out in the rest of the taught curriculum. As one of my head teachers commented, it is “the Heineken subject – reaching the parts other subjects cannot reach”.
In 2010, Digital Explorer focused in on the issues of identity, stereotypes and the media. The ease with which the media links Pakistan and the Muslim world with terrorism and extremism is an issue that needs to be tackled and is well-suited to the citizenship classroom. So we took six young people from the UK to Pakistan
and reciprocated by bringing six young people from Pakistan to the UK
, as well as a team from across the Middle East
. The aim of these expeditions was for young people to experience each others’ cultures with their own eyes, beyond media stereotypes, and to create a grassroots portrait through blogs, films and artwork, to share with their peers. Their views and experiences have been collated into an education programme that is free to access from [de] Culture
When teaching about the media and stereotypes, Carlos Cortes
introduces a valuable concept of ‘media ‘textbooks’, TV programmes, newspapers, websites, etc that already teach young people about ‘others’ and global issues. So whenever we teach about these issues in the classroom, it is important that we find out what young people already know, and this is where the resources start. A visual tool such as a tagxedo can be a great starting point.
Guidance on using this tool to examine preconceptions in your classroom are included in the Assembly and Form Ideas booklet
. The next step was to look at imagery from the media to see whether this affected young people’s perception of a country; if so how, and to what extent.
At this point the videos and blogs from the students own perspectives become incredibly valuable. We were able to juxtapose media messaging about madrassas for example with firsthand accounts from young British students who had spent a day visiting a madrassa in Kashmir. While my experience had been that young people did not have faith in the media or politicians to tell the truth, statements such as those below do affect how we think.
Madrasas are a breeding ground "for fundamentalists and terrorists"
- Colin Powell, US Secretary of State
Or this headline from the Daily Mail: Inside A Pakistani School Where Children Are Being Brainwashed Into Terrorists
Pupils can now examine such statements alongside the experiences of the expedition team.
Supporting young people to be critical media consumers is one of the cornerstones of informed citizenship. It is arguable that an overemphasis on addressing issues connected to terrorism and the Muslim world will only serve to create divisions between communities. However, the media textbooks are already teaching one view of the world and the citizenship classroom offers an opportunity to deconstruct and examine these media textbooks.
How can young people gain a balanced view of their world? It’s a challenge that we hope the resources at [de] Culture
may help you address.