Media literacy and neo-liberal government: pedagogies of freedom and constraint

This paper examines relations between media education discourses and teachers' reflections on their work with students around media. Based on a reading of curriculum documents and scholarly debates about media literacy, as well as conversations with teachers in Toronto, I ask how - and whether - formal discourses, common sense and local practices are connected in teachers' talk. My assumption is that media education forms a set of discourses that are 'made up' in part through statements and debates, circulating through professional and academic journals, books, curriculum documents, courses, workshops, conferences, web-sites, electronic communication and so on. Competing claims are made to establish what counts as media education and to assert what good media pedagogy should do and be. I then ask what teachers make of such claims and how - and whether - they are influenced by them. The first part of the paper traces some features of media education discourses over the past thirty-plus years, while the second reports on group interviews with teachers. I show that teachers do not passively adopt or adapt to notions of media education that circulate in formal discourse. Rather, they actively constitute notions of media, youth, earning and pedagogy through their practices and through their conversations about their work with students. The paper concludes with a speculation that the media education classroom may be a particularly fertile site for the production of neo-liberal subjects.

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