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2 Articles Categorized in "Television"

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Life in the Classroom, Literacy, Social Issues, Television | November 13, 2010

"Jersey Shore" is not real.



No, I'm not kidding. It isn't real. Those people auditioned, were hired, relocated into that gaudy house, and then filmed. The episodes aren't real, either... No, I'm not kidding. Those episodes are edited together based on a storyline the writers create by putting The Situation and his crew into situations where the writers know how they will react. It isn't "real."

It is amazing how much convincing it has taken to prove to my freshmen that the Jersey Shore is not real. These are the same kids who have no problem suspending disbelief long enough to just accept that Peter Parker can climb walls when he wears the right spandex suit but who cannot just accept that the animals on Animal Farm speak English and build a windmill.

These conversations help to illustrate a critical shift which ought to be happening in literacy instruction in American schools: rather than studying literary works, we need to be studying literary processes.

  • We need to study the process by which 360 hours of Jersey Shore footage gets edited down to 44 minutes for a one-hour weekly episode.
  • More importantly, we need to understand the process of acculturation and normalization which occurs in a viewer when they watch entertainment labeled as reality.
  • We need to study the process by which lighting, angle, score and juxtaposition are used by news organizations to communicate a message beyond the news.
  • More importantly, we need to study the subtle and not-so-subtle biases which shape the decision-making about what makes air and what doesn't.
  • We need to help young readers learn to discern which sources on the internet are valid and which are not, and even what we mean by "valid."

Are these lessons more or less important than Shakespeare or great novels and poetry?

As with the television news, whose producers must pare hours upon hours of worthy news into 20-22 minutes of air time (including sports and weather), when we must choose what literacy lessons to keep and what to cull for our limited amount of instructional time, on what should we base that decision?


Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Social Issues, Television | October 1, 2010

Someone Please Give the Whole Story


CddunUBy Mark

I am just old enough to remember Paul Harvey, and the "rest of the story."

Eve Rifkin, at our Arizona partner Stories from School has helped flesh out the "rest of the story" on that annual USNews "Top Schools" list, and it is as if she was reading my mind.

Between Waiting for Superman, Oprah, Education Nation, Obama's charge to raise the bar, and the resulting present (and I pessimistically argue ephemeral) empassioned focus on education in this country, it is clear that the whole story has not been told in far too many instances. Here is my take on the untold halves of the many stories told in the last couple of weeks...the rest of the story, if you will:

1. Unions oppose merit pay not to protect lazy teachers but because no one can come up with a fair and reliable way to assess teaching "merit." Issue number one: test scores don't work because not all teachers are in tested disciplines.

2. Those other countries who post great education stats? Their systems are different than ours. Some screen out special education kids. Some have separate vocational tracks which are conveniently not part of their data. Many in those systems lament the fact that the kids they produce are test-takers, not thinkers.

3. Weighing myself will not make me lose weight...I've being weighing in for years and the number is only going the wrong way. Testing kids more will not make them learn. In fact, testing actually takes up instructional time, the loss of which not surprisingly has a negative effect on test performance.

4. American schools held up as models of success always have the following by comparison to the mainstream: extra funding or an enrollment screen or both. These models are neither replicable nor sustainable in other schools unless those schools also get extra funding or an enrollment screen or both. 

5. Every child can learn, but not every child will. To blame that solely on teachers or on students is yet another heinous oversimplification of the complex problems facing education, educators, students, and families today. 

The rest of the story? I'm sure there's even more. I'm tired of hearing half-stories in the sound bytes mainstream America turns to as it's source of facts.