Brief notes on: Alvarado, M.  (1981) 'Television Studies and Pedagogy', Screen Education 38:56-67

Dave Harris

[This begins with a review of Masterman's classic textbook.  Masterman argues against simple evaluative responses of the effectiveness of teaching as a disincentive for further analysis, and one which forces individual stances and personal responses.]

The problem with Masterman's book is that it sees the contents of media studies as ideology, as a separate matter from form, and from pedagogy, which is seen as a neutral methodology.  Instead, pedagogy is 'an indivisible part of what is being taught' (59).  Masterman's naive faith in progressivism prevents him from seeing this.  Alvarado is not so sure of the suitability of the discussion method, especially as a form for analysis.  The general interest in deschooling is also mistaken: competitiveness is all right if it leads to [personal, political] transformations, and is anyway necessary if there is to be a wider struggle.  Even examinations have a good side.  Masterman is naive to think that schools could opt out of the examination system anyway.  It is not enough to encourage pupil experiences, rather we need to get beyond them.

Alvarado suggests instead that we: (a) select suitable elements of experience rather than relying on it completely; (b) pursue a definite methodology, even though this might be seen as 'theory' by teachers and often rejected.  The progressive critique needs to be widened to include a critique of contents [of experience?] (64); (c) institutional structures of the media are important but often neglected by teachers.  This may be 'boring' on occasion, but even so it should not be ignored: pupils often have a 'knowledge' about institutions that really do need to be combated, and Alvarado talks of a student member of the National Front who 'knew' the media were all a Jewish conspiracy.  Finally, we have to realise there can never be a perfect pedagogy because the pupils always transform it.

If the teacher is to be well organized and present a clear outline of the work to be covered, this involves a necessary dualism in their approach to children.  They must recognise their own [and the school's] power, the importance of present structures, and the need to work successfully within them (67).  They must recognise the importance and potential power of all forms of oppositional knowledge, and this should lead pupils to realise the importance of passing examinations [in other subjects as well as in media studies?].  This in turn requires direct and economical teaching in tandem with critique.  This duality needs to be 'made explicit, discussed, kept in tension and used analytically'

[Masterman was able to reply in Screen Education 40: 88-92.  Alvarado is too theoretical and we need to know what he actually does in practice.  Alvarado should actually find out what pupils are learning as a result of direct instruction.  The issue is what should be done about exams—a weak accommodation with the examination system simply denies the effects that it has,how it can produce the structured failure of whatever teachers try to do.  He agrees there can be no simple successful practice in areas of teaching, especially in areas that cover the institutional context]

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