onclusion: From Media to Popular Culture
to Everyday Life
As the focus for this essay I want to use a statement in the Victoria (Australia)
curriculum: "The student's natural enthusiasm and interest in the media
should be sustained in the more formal classroom structure. Even so, teachers
must achieve a balance between developing a sound approach to media edu-
cation and fostering the student's feel and excitement for it." I want to talk
about this "balance" or, more accurately, why this balance is so hard to
achieve. In a sense, I see this desired balance as the dilemma of teaching
media rather than its chief difficulty.
The statement presupposes an interesting if somewhat predictable distri-
bution ofrelations to the media: on the one side, students with their "natural
enthusiasm," "interest," "feel and excitement"; on the other side, teachers
with "a sound approach." This division seems to embody a desire to have it
both ways, as it were. We have to see our students as lacking any sophistica-
tion, which is not quite the same as assuming that they are passively manipu-
lated cultural dopes, for they are, after all, granted a very active affective or
passional relation to the media. To some extent, this is necessary if we are to
maintain our authority as teachers without condemning ourselves to guaran-
teed failure, since, if they are "dopes," we could never teach them anything.
But if there is no problem, ifthey are not in some ways, at some times, duped
by their relationship to the media, there is probably no reason for us to teach
them anything about the media. Thus I do not want to dismiss outright the
elitism inherent in the call for "a sound approach" as long as we take it as a
demand that as teachers we constantly construct positions for ourselves
having a certain authority. Nor do I want to dismiss the goal of balancing our
elitism against the affective strength of our students' investments in the me-
dia culture. But I do want to reject the particular sociological distribution of
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