Media As Teacher

Jun 15, 2012

This week I talked violence on a weekly radio show on a hip-hop/R&B commercial station that dubbed itself the “non-violent station.” The 30-minute segment offered evidence of its commitment to the moniker. The disk jockey and I exchanged ideas about the root causes of violence, and indubitably education (or lack thereof) surfaced as a prime source. After a solid 10 minutes of talk, the DJ transitioned to a musical intermission in which he played parts of “Kinda Like a Big Deal” by the Clipse. 

I balled up my forehead and eyelashes in confusion. The DJ asked, “What’s wrong?”  I replied, “Listen to what you’re playing.” While not the most violent song I’ve ever heard, the opening line says, “Till the casket drops.” Consequently, I redirected the on-air conversation to why we shouldn’t rigidly think of teachers and lessons as mere products of schools.      

Education and human development is largely about how individuals and social groups receive and store information. We all develop schemas that categorize artifacts and experiences that are associative. People within the media are both influence by dominant schemas of the day and have tremendous impact on shaping those norms.

My experience with the aforementioned DJ should not be absorbed as a story about the corruptive influence of gansta rap. That same song could have been used as a tool to combat violence if the DJ aspired to be a good teacher.  More importantly, crime and murder that’s myopically reported outside of a deeper learning context probably contributes to pejorative schemas we all have developed over time. 

That’s why I’m tremendously appreciative of the Times-Picayune and Cindy Chang’s efforts to create a learning environment through the highly acclaimed, award winning series, Louisiana Incarcerated.  Providing a broader context forces us to change the schemas we use when contemplating how society should rehabilitate people, provide opportunities and define culpability.

Chang’s iconoclastic work continues next week on Loyola University’s campus in a discussion that is free and open to the public. She’ll talk with Louisiana’s top law enforcement and elected officials, as well as former prisoners and criminal justice advocates.

Similarly, news reporting on schools and teachers has largely occurred within the polarized discourse of education reform. News media have largely shied from the heat of scrutiny that comes from nuanced conversations. Tapered reporting contributes to the juvenile food fights we loosely call debates around a partial definition of learning growth.

Gladly, the New Orleans Association of Black Journalists will have a nuanced conversation with local educational stakeholders as part of the National Association of Black Journalist’s annual meeting.  Both aforementioned meetings are free and open to the public.  Details of both events can be found by following this commentary on the WWNO website.

If media outlets can fully embrace their roles as teachers, then we’ll develop schemas that put hip-hop, gangstas, and black males in more appropriate places.

On June 19th& 20th, please participate in community events that place media in its proper role of teacher.

NABJ/NOABJ Public Forum: Reforming Education in Post-Katrina Louisiana

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

6:00 pm-8:00pm

Dillard University

Professional Schools Building Georges Auditorium

2601 Gentilly Blvd. 
New Orleans, LA 70122


Louisiana Incarcerated: An Evening with Cindy Chang

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Loyola University New Orleans
 Roussel Hall

(located in the Communications/Music Complex on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Calhoun Street)

New Orleans, LA