Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So What Did You Learn At School Today?

Looking over titles, descriptions and online trailers of educational videos that appear at my office from time to time, I see falsehoods wrapped in some dimensions of truth.

And given contemporary production techniques, I fear the viewer will come away remembering the falsehoods more than the truths.

Which is in some cases the whole idea.

Examine some of the titles with me:

Not Just a Game: Power, Politics, and American Sports. This laments the corporatism that taints professional sports. True. But the video then makes the weird case that contemporary athletes are cowed by big money and refuse to make political statements like Muhammed Ali and others did years ago. Perhaps. But it just might be that because people see sports as a means to escape the realities of politics and other pressures on their lives, that athletes and others in the game are just giving them what they want. Besides it's not the '60s anymore.

The Bro Code: How Contemporary Culture Creates Sexist Men. There's a justified critique of the harmful effects of pornography, but the promotional material tells me that by end of this film the overall message will be that all men and boys are evil. The entertainment culture, claims the film catalogue, teaches that "it's not only normal -- but cool -- for boys and men to control and humiliate women." Note the language: "boys and men." Not "some," not "many," not "a minority." Just "boys and men." Evil creatures, all of them.

The Purity Myth: The Virginity Movement's War Against Women. Okay, I guess some of these films are devoid of any truth. This might be one of them. ("...an unholy alliance of evangelical Christians, political activists, and policy wonks who have been spreading irrational fears about women's sexuality..."). The film is also critical of father-daughter social events aimed at institutionalizing the concept of purity. I see the problem with that: it might make men look good (see Bro Code above).

And this one's great:

The Billionaires' Tea Party: How Corporate America is Faking a Grassroots Revolution. This might be another film where one really has to go searching for the truth. The filmmaker finds "...irate voters parroting insurance industry PR; [he] learns that home-grown 'citizen groups' challenging the science behind climate change are funded by big oil companies; and infiltrates a tea party movement whose anti-government fervor turns out to be less the product of populist rage than of corporate strategy." Yeah. Right. I've been a Tea Party activist for more than two years and I'm still waiting for my corporate check.

And on it goes: films about oppressed Palestinians (nothing, of course, about Israel), the evils of capitalism, consumer overspending (true) and so on.

These are educational films. Actually, they are propaganda pieces posing as educational material. I'm sensitive to this stuff because I'm a university professor. Of course, there are times when my biases creep into what I teach as much as there are biases in the films I've noted. That's life; that's humanity -- you can't write a grocery list without bias (you put the ice cream first). Yet, there are times when my professional responsibility dictates that I must say to my students that what I am telling them is my opinion, that they are free to accept it or reject it.

That's unlikely with some of these videos. Especially the one claiming corporate control of communications. It's called The Myth of the Liberal Media.

Of course.

No comments:

Post a Comment