It didn't occur to me until David Warlick posted this article I sent him on his blog, that I've yet to mention it here. That's actually kind of ironic, because I've handed it out to just about every student in my video classes, as well as their parents on parent-teacher night. I'm also likely to mention it if you get me talking about teaching video, and I've even been known to hand it out in leaflet form on the street or scrawl portions of it on subway cars.

The article in question, Is a Cinema Studies Degree the New MBA? by Elizabeth Van Ness is critical reading for video teachers, but also speaks directly to the sort of seismic conceptual shift that Daniel Pink describes in A Whole New Mind (if you haven't guessed from this post and the last one, I've recently read this book, and its given me a lot to think about). The article describes Rick Herbst, a film major with no intention of becoming a filmmaker;

People endowed with social power and prestige are able to use film and media images to reinforce their power - we need to look to film to grant power to those who are marginalized or currently not represented," said Mr. Herbst, who envisions a future in the public policy arena. The communal nature of film, he said, has a distinct power to affect large groups, and he expects to use his cinematic skills to do exactly that.

The reason that this article has become so seminal to me is that it goes to the heart of why it is so critical to teach video and media literacy. It all comes down to influence and communication. In his book Rules for Radicals (another book that I heartily recommend), Saul Alinsky notes the the importance of communication:

Lacking communication I am in reality silent; throughout history silence has been regarded as assent.

Video is in many ways the new language of our time; just look at the evening news clips that are captured not by professional crews, but cellphones. Look at the instances in which a Youtube clip elevates an Ordinary Joe to stardom or destroys a political career - like George Allen's (although you could argue that he did that to himself, certainly the exposure helped nail shut that particular coffin).

Video production and media literacy classes allow us to teach students to think critically about the constant stream of media that bombards us - it also gives them the tools to respond.


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