No media studies? No future.

Australian education has ignored academic and social arguments to introduce media-studies into school age curriculum. Australia is a media rich and media poor society where parental styles, conceptions and attitude towards media have been show as critical in how children see, understand and use media. I’ve been around “online” for a long time, and rarely if ever have I heard a book author, consultant ‘expert’ mention the role of parent mediation in how children respond to media.

Office Automation verses Media Studies

This is one example of why school systems often allow ‘dangerous experts’ to offer opinion, they can avoid topics they don’t like, and amplify those they do. It helps to cover up the trail of poor decision making over decades when it comes to the importance of media studies. Let me give a brief, snapshot. Computers arrived in schools as a mathematical science. Around 2000, curriculum bodies began to insist that children could also use office automation software. It had nothing to do with media or information studies, but a media panic over middle class wealth. At some point, children had to learn to use a keyboard and basic office tools, which is still seen as the main affordance of computers in schools today. Check the curriculum documents if you don’t believe me.

A history of avoiding media

In the mid 2000s, schools blundered their way online with an in-consistent fear-based-policy approach. On one hand they believed that kids could now search for information, which potentially saved them money — less books, less libraries, less databases — and a place to stick these computers which by then had been thrown out of science/maths because they were culturally no longer about computing at all. On the other, schools have a poor track record when it comes to using media, always favouring PROTECTION (of the system) over PREPARATION (for life). Parallel to this parents of course were told (my the media) that in the age of ‘the information worker’ knowing how to be a USER was most important to future prospects. Ironically, all that work as gone overseas. More worryingly is this idea that all kids are in a media rich home, able to select, maintain and provided BYOD devices — and agree NOT to also give kids their own network-connectivity to circumvent ‘essential’ protectionist security. 

So school has a legacy of machine-use, which suits the “web2.0” agenda. In effect, it can fund endless speakers and pilots at a far lower cost than re-orgnising curriculum in schools and universities to provide media-studies with the same importance it does biology of geography. At the same time, it’s PR engine promoted media as the future (all be it in their own weird way) depicted by these self-styled online experts – whom seem to have little credentials towards media studies, design or adult education.

Media Studies in the curriculum, not just inferred

When media-studies becomes part of the national curriculum, then academic, institutions and commercial providers can set about building something of substance that feeds into further education and the world place. That process would of course involve public consultation — not just the Twitterarti — which shapes a romantic, status based theatre as scholarship. Even worse, games are being added into classrooms on the basis they are popular, or can be de-clawed enough to be “educational” – It’s brain missing to me.

I feel pain for those teachers who put the hours and time into learning about media, and considering it’s impacts and affordances — they carry the burden and the hopes of children — who are basically be failed by dogmatic refusal to accept media (the arts) as being of equal importance to science. But when you have power, you don’t need to explain why and how you are going to use it I guess.