Students in a social studies course aimed at helping them dissect and understand messages in the media got the rare chance to preach what they practice before the state Legislature last week.
Five student veterans of a Democracy and Media Literacy course at Andover High School appeared before the state House of Representatives and Senate last Thursday. They testified in favor of two bills that would make media literacy courses mandatory in public high schools throughout the state.
The students said their media literacy course, which they completed last year, was invaluable in the process of teaching teenagers how to make informed decisions in an at-times distracting and volatile media climate.
“What I found most important was just being able to deconstruct messages in the media, whether it’s a political message or someone trying to sell a child something,” senior Cole Organisciak said. “That’s especially important because there’s a specific market that targets kids and teens these days.”
Andover High introduced the course in the fall of 2001, according to Mary Robb, the teacher behind the syllabus. The school year and course was only a couple weeks old when disaster struck in New York. The Sept. 11 attacks rattled the heart of America and turned the course on its head.
“A week into school, (the course) was tragically justified,” Robb said.
With any national conversation joined by prime-time TV, media literacy can help people break down and understand the impact of what is being said by those who speak the loudest.
The course “helps you realize how you’ve been influenced, the manner in which you’ve been influenced, and it helps you navigate through that influence,” Robb said. “We’re products of the choices we make, and those choices are so fundamentally influenced by the media — so much so that we often don’t see the impact of it.”