The media influences many areas of our lives sometimes without us even realizing that it is happening. Where else do we learn about the newest must have toy for Christmas, or the latest iphone. We see it and we immediately want it and cannot live without it. The same principal applies to the amount of influence media has over our schools and education policies. They shine a favorable light on someone who is running for the school board and instantly we think that person is the best candidate for the job. They do an investigative report on how money is being wasted at the expense of our kids and we are ready to march down to the administration building and demand they all resign. We grow up believing that everything we see and here in the media is the truth but the reality is that someone usually has an ax to grind and finds a way to get their view before the general public. This type of journalism has gotten so out of hand that Fox News uses the tagline “fair and balanced” in an effort to bring more views to their channel. I am left wondering why all channels and outlets are not reporting the news in a fair and balanced manner.
There are two ways in which media, including the news media, popular culture, and entertainment sources, are commonly viewed as educational. In the first sense, people learn what to think and how to behave from media sources, viewing information on the news as matter of fact, or the characters on a televised sitcom as models for normal behavior, for example. Many find this view most compelling when considering media’s impact on young children, whose understanding of the distinction between reality and fantasy is not set in stone.
As an example, “Schrag suggests that, lacking prior learning or experience with Middle Eastern culture, young children are bound to learn from Aladdin-a Walt Disney film marketed to young children that has sold tens of millions of copies-that Middle Eastern fruit sellers are commonly prone to violent rage upon discovering a single apple has been stolen from their cart. A similar view of media as unduly and directly influential to children was used in defense of twelve-year-old Lionel Tate, who was tried in 1991 for killing a six-year-old girl by body slamming her as he commonly observed contestants in World Federation of Wrestling do on television.” (Jackson, 2010)
The first policy is the right of freedom of speech. Public schools are the easiest to change though law and public policy when compared to parents, news media, campaigns, and communities. Schools can have a direct impact on students ‘civic attitudes, knowledge, and habits. One of the most effective ways for them to teach citizenship is by promoting discussion of current issues, which is often based on items from the news media. There is even evidence that discussions of current issues in social studies classes can have indirect effects, enhancing family discussions of current events, which then increase both parents’ and students’ interest and knowledge. Educational programs that emphasize discussion of controversial issues have been found to increase students’ tolerance and use of the news media. By discussing these topics at school first then the student going home and talking about it to their parents it helps the student better understand the topic and the world around them. (Lopez, 2009)
In 2005, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation released results from a major survey of more than 112,000 high school students in more than 500 public and private schools that was taken in 2004. “The survey was called the Future of the First Amendment (FOFA). It focused on habits and attitudes relevant to the First Amendment and especially freedom of the press. Students were asked factual questions about the First Amendment. Questions such as, “Is it legal to burn the American flag as a protest?” They were also asked opinion question, “Does the press have too much freedom?” and “Should newspapers be allowed to publish freely without government approval?” Finally, they were asked questions about their use of various news media and participation in school media activities.” (Lopez, 2009)
This research is very disturbing. It implies that schools are not doing their part to teach the students about what rights they do have. Recently some groups tried taking away our freedom of speech by telling us that when we say the Pledge of Allegiance it is wrong to say “one nation under God.” Freedom of speech should protect everyone and one group does not have the right to tell another that the words they choose to say are no longer allowed.
Another area where the media has had a positive impact on school policy involves underage smoking. Movies and TV commonly show the stars of the film smoking. This is because smoking is still accepted in everyday life even though there are so many anti-smoking campaigns. “Libertarianism toward smoking still permeates the society sufficiently to make smoking by film stars tolerable and normal, if not also attractive and desirable, as long as they are not literally advertising cigarettes to minors. Some audience members respond critically to media messages implying that smoking is socially acceptable, while others are more favorable. Yet the commonality of smoking by protagonists in mainstream film, nonetheless, reveals that, according to mainstream producers’ information, smoking is not considered to be beyond the bounds of social norms; it is regarded normally as an expected, largely acceptable, behavior that need not require a critical response or prohibition on the big screen.” (McCarthy, 1998)
Most of the policies that schools are trying to enact are for the good of the students. They want to make sure that the students are healthy and safe while they are on school property. Media campaigns have been used to modify individual behavior in many issues such as AIDS, tobacco use, breastfeeding, physical activity, and milk consumption. Ads are used in newspaper articles or letters to the editor in order to influence policy change. “In 2006, North Carolina launched a campaign that used mass media campaign to influence policy change. It became the first state to create a statewide mass media campaign to promote the adoption of and compliance with tobacco-free policies in schools (TFS). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as part of a comprehensive tobacco control program, calls for tobacco-free policies in schools to prevent youth tobacco use.” (Summerlin-Long. S, 2009)
The most effective tobacco-free policies that are enforced have shown there to be a significant reduction of youth tobacco use. These policies not only affect the students. It also affects school personnel’s use of tobacco and teaching of youth about tobacco. The most successful tobacco-free policy prohibits the use of tobacco products by anyone. No one is allowed to use tobacco on school grounds or at school events at any time. This includes school premises, school vehicles, and school events such as concerts and sporting events. “At the time of the campaign launch, 78 of the 115 (67.8%) school districts in North Carolina had adopted comprehensive tobacco-free policies. The vast majority of these districts passed policies after school and community organizations funded by the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund (HWTF) specifically began to focus on this issue in 2003. As an innovative strategy for augmenting promotion of TFS policy adoption and compliance across the state, the HWTF decided in 2005 to develop a statewide media campaign that would educate North Carolinians about TFS policies and encourage widespread support for such policies in local school districts.” (Summerlin-Long. S, 2009)
This was the first tobacco-free media campaign in the nation there and there was no evidence-based practice to base what ads worked best. Research was needed to help with the creation of the campaign aimed at changing policies. Researchers decided to speak with experts to learn more about messages to promote TFS policy. In February and March 2005, researchers conducted a total of 45 interviews with experts on TFS policy that were from within and outside North Carolina. The experts were from North Carolina and five other states. The people that were chosen for the interview were school district superintendents, Board of Education members, and school employees who included principals, teachers, and other staff. These people were chosen because they had the most power to influence policy and they were the adults most affected by local policy. There were twenty participants in twelve districts with TFS policies and in six districts without TFS policies participated in interviews. Two participants were from organizations that worked across school districts. The research team also interviewed 9 state legislators to ensure the possibility of such a media campaign in a tobacco-growing state. The legislators included political parties, the Senate and the House, and a number of prominent members of the legislature who might wield influence on this issue. (Summerlin-Long. S, 2009)
The survey tool asked interviewees about the best types of people to appear in ads. People were asked to think about which kinds of people would be most compelling in general.. They had to make the decision to decide whether a youth must appear in the personal testimonial of youth, and superintendents/school personnel would be best to relate the experiences of successful districts. They were also asked “(1) what kinds of messages they believed would be most effective, (2) what kinds of messages might be seen as controversial, and (3) legislators’ comments on three of the most popular themes from the expert/stakeholder list.” (Summerlin-Long. S, 2009)
An ongoing problem in schools is bullying. In recent years the students are even bullied while they are on the internet away from the school setting. Schools are now using the media to help stop bullies and make sure that students are safe. Recent news in the national media about two students’ deaths as a result of harassment in school has highlighted a renewed desire for educators to address the culture of bullying and harassment in public schools, especially when the victims are targeted for their real or perceived differences. Some students are bullied and made fun of so much that they see the only way out is to commit suicide or leave the city that they are from. South Carolina’s legislature responded to this need in June 2006 with the passage of the Safe School Climate Act. “This statute was designed to limit and punish “harassment, intimidation, or bullying” among public school students, and it was required that school districts established policies to address this issue before January 1, 2007. However, failure to adequately implement the provision may provide an explanation as to why the Safe School Climate Act has failed to significantly change the culture of schools in South Carolina. South Carolina’s legislative intentions provide a reference for similar legislation and policy changes nationwide. Current research shows that only quality staff development combined with ongoing, effective training in and education about any new policies will lead to its effective implementation. The complex causes of bullying and its impact on school culture continue to be debated by educational researchers, psychologists, and social theorists.” (Terry, Blocking the Bullies: Has South Carolina’s Safe School Climate Act Made Public Schools Safer?, 2010) Obviously legal remedies and punitive measures for bullies alone have not solved the problem. Will there ever be a time in history where students can be themselves and not worry about if someone is going to make fun of them or if they will ever be able to hang out with the cool kids? Hopefully through continued media attention to this problem changes will come about.
Do you remember walking down the hallways in high school and suddenly having the security guard chase after you because they thought that your shorts where to short? By the time that I was a senior in high school is became a joke to us all. We learned that we could bend our arms a little bit and make it look like our shorts were long enough. In reality yes our shorts where to short but there was nothing that we could do about. My high school didn’t have air conditioning so at times it got very hot and it was unbearable to wear pants. When we would go shopping for shorts they ones that would fit around our hips without falling off would be too short and it we bought them so that they were a little bit too big so the length was right then we would get into trouble because they would be falling off of us. It was such a dilemma. The dress code restriction didn’t just stop on what length our shorts had to be. “Students and teachers alike have always had restrictions on what is appropriate and inappropriate dress. Virtually with no exception, schools have minimum dress codes in place: rules about what cannot be worn at school. Uniform policies state explicitly what must be worn in schools.” (Gereluk, 2007)
“Halter-tops, tube-tops, one shoulder tops . . . muscle shirts, see-through or mesh tops (unless underneath a shirt) aren’t to be worn. Blouses, shirts or tops that reveal bare backs, midriffs, undergarments, or that have spaghetti straps or revealing necklines are not to be worn in Trent’s classes, hallways, class activities, or on field trips.” (Raby, 2010) Does that sound familiar to you? I remember reading this in all my classes throughout my educational career. I always used to wonder why we had to have such a strict dress code. Now that I am older I have realized why. Dress code violations are distracting to others and they do not fit the desired image of a school, and disrespectful toward oneself and others. The details of dress codes do shift, however, as school administrators respond to trends in popular fashion. An example of this is reflected in rules banning midriff tops now making way for new concerns with girls revealing cleavage. “Several American towns banning young men from wearing low-slung pants that reveal their underwear.” (Raby, 2010)
Dress codes are not only for the students they are also for the staff in the school. Who wants to look at a teacher all day that is wearing sweat pants or a really low plunging neckline? I would be very angry. That is more distracting than if a student was wearing that outfit. “In a 1901 document entitled “Rules for Teachers,” female educators were informed that they “must wear at least two petticoats” and that “dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.” Male educators were informed that they “shall wear a suit coat and suspenders.” Additionally, teachers were admonished not to “wear bright colors”.” (Kiracofe, 2010)
As you can tell times have changed a lot. People do not dress like this anymore. Now modern school administers must decide if teachers are allowed to wear T-shirts with religious messages or other religious garb such as a turban or birkha. (Kiracofe, 2010)
The question of whether or not media plays and helpful or harmful role in regards to the education system is not an easy on to answer. School safety has been improved following the events of past years that played out on every TV screen across America. They have reported on cyber bullying and the devastating consequences that such behavior can cause. Smoking has been banned from school property. On the other hand they have shown crazy “games” that have been being played among large groups of students. The latest one involves students on foot being chased by other students in cars. The object of the game is for the students on foot to make it to a predetermined location without getting caught. Shortly after this story was reported in the mainstream media there was an increase of traffic accidents due to even more students playing the game after hearing about it on the nightly news. The best we can hope for is that the good outweighs the bad and to try and teacher our children that just because the news anchor tells them something it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the truth etched in stone.