This isn’t a fully fledged lesson plan, but just a few ideas and some resources that I had that I wanted to share with you all. Every once in a while I get some politically or religiously charged emails from my family members. And while I hate receiving them, I always think how great they would be to use in a classroom to teach media literacy. After all, the average person often gets forwarded emails in his or her inbox, takes the information at face value, and then forwards it on to the dozens of other people on his or her email list who might be as equally un-critical of the information they’re receiving. But as teachers, it’s our job to make our students more media savvy.
Here are three examples and my ideas for their use.
CBN News in Paris – A MUST SEE!
This is a shocking clip from CBN News in Paris.
It is extremely important that you watch this!
Then you will know that you must send it on.
Click on this link:
Background: This video was forwarded to me with just the above message and link. Note that it was released by the Christian Broadcasting Network in English. Clearly it’s meant to scare Americans with our post-9/11 obsession with terrorism and Islam. It also draws attention to an ugly vein of xenophobia among the French who see their country as being overrun by Muslims (and Roma) — for the Germans its the Turks, for Russia its the Chinese, and for the US its Mexicans. (Check out this NY Times article for a discussion about xenophobia around the world.) It’s the same story of assimilation over and over again.
Ideas: This could be a great video to use in a French class to focus on culture, in an English class to focus on audience, or in a history class to focus on nationalism and xenophobia. Specifically, it reminds me of an exhibition on nazi propaganda that I recently saw at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. It pointed out how people tend to focus on extreme nativism more when the economy is bad, which is partially how HItler convinced Germans to round up the Jews — he blamed them for Germany’s suffering economy after WWI.
I also see this becoming an increasing concern of globalization — people still see themselves as “French” or “American” and don’t take kindly to others who don’t assimilate. And while this may have worked before, I wonder if it will for much longer what with 7 billion people on the planet and humanitarian concerns that cross national boarders. (Click on this link for a great piece on population from the National Geographic Magazine.) This could be a hook into a science lesson on population that crosses with the humanities.
Subject: Look what other countries think of us– PARADE IN GERMANY
A chuckle amidst the insanity….the world is laughing at our Liberal government and the coorruption.These floats were part of the annual Carnival Parade in Germany, watched by an estimated 3 million people in 3 German cities including Dusseldorf ..
“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation.
One is by the sword.. The other is by debt.”
John Adams 1826
“When injustice becomes law, then resistance becomes duty.”
GOD Bless America…
In GOD We Trust!
Background: I received the email above word-for-word. My immediate response was how can the author make such a hyperbolic statement about ”what other countries think of us” based off of one German parade. A quick search on my favorite English-language German news site told me that the parade is actually called the Rosenmontag parade. I actually remembered seeing these photos back in February during the carnival season. What the forward doesn’t mention is that the parade exists for “revellers [to] poke fun at current events and enjoy tonnes of sweets hurled from the travelling floats,” a bit like Mardi Gras. The other floats included equally damning images of Silvio Berlusconi (the Italian Prime Minister) and Angela Merkel (the German Chancellor). The parade makes fun of everyone’s government, whether liberal or conservative. You can see the full photos here.
Ideas: Like the previous example, I think this email is supposed to promote a kind of nationalism that draws a line between America and other nations, a kind of “How dare they!” feeling. At the same time, I think it’s supposed to highlight our “corrupt liberal government” and get Americans all fired up about changing the government. It would provide a great lesson on audience and purpose and give students the chance to actively question what’s being left out by the photo selections made by the author. It could also help spark an interesting discussion on free speech and if a person can ever cross that line.
The email comes with some interesting quotes at the bottom that seem characteristic of these kinds of emails and which are worth examining to determine what values are being presented. And finally, I would really like to use this for a grammar and spelling lesson in an English classroom and discuss how the mistakes help or detract from the message.
Background: This email actually came to me in a roundabout way. A close family member of mine once got very emotional at dinner about the number of Michelle Obama’s staffers and how much the taxpayers were spending on them. My husband, ever being the skeptic, decided to look it up online and found a great article about it on snopes.com.
Idea: Apart from being good fodder for a discussion on politics and valid sources in a history classroom, I also wonder if this could work for a math or economics lesson. I don’t know many math people, so this may not work, but the email seems interesting to me because it deals so much with numbers and salaries. Maybe students could be asked to go on their own web quests to find accurate salary figures for the staffers of other first ladies, adjust those numbers based on inflation, and provide a more accurate comparison. I also like that the email highlights the very emotional and powerful grip that Americans (perhaps people in general?) seem to have on their money. Students could even try to compare the amount spent on the staff for the American president versus the leaders of other countries, and then discuss the implications of their findings.
Have you received any fun forwarded emails lately? Have any other ideas? Leave them in the comments!