The Ugliest Joke Yet On Children

February 4, 2000

If you can imagine the Ku Klux Klan giving seminars on racial tolerance, then you’ll have no problem accepting Channel One teaching media literacy to the schoolchildren who are forced to watch their TV show and commercials under force of contract.

The term “media literacy” is relatively new. Roughly it attempts to teach children and adults how to “read” media messages and how to use media as a tool. Just like a person is print literate when they can read and write words and term papers, media literacy seeks the same skills with various media.

There may be many respectable media literacy organizations in our country. I know of one for sure that is beyond reproach. The New Mexico Media Literacy Project has an outstanding reputation in this field. They do not taint themselves by accepting media money to support their organization. The American Academy of Pediatrics has often used the NMMLP to train doctors in media literacy so they can better serve their patients. That by itself is recommendation enough.

On the other end of the spectrum are those media literacy organizations that have no ethical hangups about prostituting themselves for corporate cash. Channel One has found such a person in Renee Hobbs (Babson College) who refused to tell the Wall Street Journal how much money Channel One had paid her to prepare the “Media Mastery” curriculum that Channel One is now rolling out in schools.

Channel One exists for one main reason – to get commercials in front of the impressionable eyes of schoolchildren. Channel One was created by an advertising executive.

This effort to teach media literacy is not intended by Channel One to help children. It is intended to take heat off of the Channel One company. It is a smokescreen and it is about as low as Channel One has ever gone.

The person behind this ruse is Paul Folkemer, Channel One VP of Education. He will be touring the country proclaiming how he and his marketing company, Channel One, are dedicated to teaching children how to understand and evaluate the news and commercials. It will be interesting to see if Channel One’s money can buy them the respectability that cannot earn.

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