Social Issues Represented in the Media – Inappropriate Teaching Material?

When we talk about social issues, the first thing that comes to our mind is media. Different forms or different types of media be it radio, television, magazines, internet, YouTube, Newspapers, News channels, mobile phones, iPad etc. represent social issues from a totally new angle or perspective. Hence, media texts become excellent resources for teaching both primary and secondary students provided the chosen texts are age appropriate. It is not a surprise to find innovative educators use current texts or social issues depicted by media to engage and instruct students as the chosen texts have a definite purpose.

Choice of certain texts are influenced by a need for a discussion of ethical issues. This makes us wonder what an ethical issue is. One of the common definitions you would stumble upon browsing is,” An ethical issue brings systems of morality and principles into conflict.” Therefore, we understand that unlike other conflicts which could be challenged with truths, ethical issues are subjective or opinionated and hence are open to many interpretations. According to philosophers, there are three categories of ethics – Metaethics (moral principles that governs a person’s behaviour), Normative ethics and Applied ethics. When we choose age appropriate texts, especially news segments for discussion we ensure that they explore normative ethics, which involves defining right and wrong behaviour and applied ethics which sparks a debate on the controversial nature of the issue in focus. When a risk-taking educator thinks about what makes an ethical issue, he or she considers all the three categories of ethics and chooses a text accordingly. The text ‘Sugar Daddy’ is one such which contains or involves applied ethics and has plenty of scope for discussion both ‘for’ and ‘against’ the topic. There is no question of the material being inappropriate because the text reflects young adults’ choices in the society.

We are not unaware of the popularity of social networking websites and its popularity among secondary students. Even though teenagers may not acknowledge to teachers openly that they are YouTubers with hundreds and thousands of subscribers and are frequent users of Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc., they are digital citizens who participate in business promotions on social networking sites consciously or unconsciously. Social networking sites have become a money-making platform due its popularity with consumers or target audience and the possibility of reaching a very large audience via these sites. Hence, these texts are appropriate for instruction. A few bikini shots do not undermine the value of the text or render it inappropriate as students are aware of beach culture in Australia and are a part of it.

Just as ’60 minutes’ segments, texts from ‘A Current Affair’ and Netflix documentaries are not only didactic in nature but also create awareness among youth besides compelling them to reflect on the choices made by the individuals involved in the conflict. Even though both the texts have common subject, which is sexual exploitation, these are age appropriate texts for students ranging between 15 and 17 years of age as it warns the youth about the consequences of such thoughtless, rude and offensive acts which are also regarded as criminal offences.

If there are educators who are still critical about the choice of such texts to educate the youngsters, then they should ensure that Love Bites program is banned from Australian schools. For those educators or public who are unaware of the afore-mentioned program, it is based on best practice standards for education programs as recommended by the Federal Government funded Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House and other leading academics in the area of violence against women. It would be useful to remember that haters are always going to hate.

Songs are synonymous with poetry and hence it is used to teach poetic techniques and themes. It is known to engage even boys who are not keen to read poems and analyse them. As there are never-ending supply of songs that touch upon social issues, these are awesome resources to introduce new ideas/themes to students. It is the context of the song that adds to its meaning which could be social, political or historical. Melissa Etheridge’s ‘Pulse’ is one such text that has for its context the shooting in Orlando night club in New York. The composer, who was shocked and enraged to learn about the unnecessary killings, decided to write about it to feel better and the outcome was ‘Pulse’. The song originally intended to be a tragic composition, with a different approach, became a song that reminded listeners of the need for universal humanity with emphasis on love overcoming hate. Even though the video has visual references to the LGBT, one cannot ignore the only message the song advocates which is to be united by putting aside the differences. The critic needs to weigh the positives and negatives before being judgemental.

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