Notes on: Buckingham, D.  (1990) 'Media Education: From Pedagogy to Practice'.  In Buckingham, D (Ed) Watching Media Learning.  Making sense of media education.  Basingstoke: Falmer

Dave Harris

One common approach involves taking theoretical ideas and trying to operationalize them, but this enshrines existing knowledge, and minimizes the effect of strategies [involved in theoretical knowledge?  Involved in selecting particular theoretical ideas?  My notes, referring to media education as a moral crusade, suggest the latter.  These days, I would probably think of pedagogic or assessment strategies as being important as well].

Media education has been overshadowed by the requirements of higher education, leaving teachers as mere implementers.  This is one of the affects of Screen Theory.  This developed a privileged theory, following Althusser, which saw the film as an ideological state apparatus.  Its pessimism was enhanced by a certain psychoanalytic pessimism connected to the notion of the subject.  A kind of avant-garde rejection of convention seemed to be the only alternative stance.  Screen theory became increasingly authoritarian in the 1970s and attempted to police the correct line, leading to an elitist pedagogy.

Teachers were seen as needing to become part of a theoretical vanguard aiming to attack the pleasures of the audience, and in this, they came to resemble elite critics like Leavis.  Screen Education faced particular dilemmas, since the education system is also an ISA, [leading to the sort of paradox mentioned by Alvarado].  Teachers were assumed to have a role as 'socialist intellectuals' in the struggle [a common delusion in gramscian media educators as well, both good examples of the kind of elitist emancipatory education condemned by Rancière].

As a result of these theoretical and political struggles, there is a considerable absence of discussion of practice, in favour of a strong pedagogic line, directed as much against the liberal left as against right [again picked up by Alvarado in his critique of progressive methods].  This legacy remains, and can be seen in the development of a number of basic readers with summaries of potted concepts [including the BFI one?  Cook?].  If anything, discussions about pedagogical practice were drawn from progressive English teaching, where there were far more discussions and debates.  We can still see contradictions, though, for example when Masterman still describes media in terms of dominant ideology, requiring 'radical information' and demystification, but he also advocates 'democratic teaching methods'.  These are still based on the assumption that the children will eventually see the errors of their ways [which reminded me of discussions of the stage management of discovery learning].  His approach still minimizes different readings and the struggle for meaning.

The problems are especially acute in areas like 'race'.  Examples of depictions of people from ethnic minorities are often seen as self evidently racist.  Students are supposed to reach this conclusion and 'explore the contradictory pleasures'.  Similar simplifications are found in the treatment of teenage magazines, which are 'sexist', and not even pleasurable.  Here we see the teacher playing the traditional role of 'moral guardian'.

There has been a debate, still at a theoretical level, like the one between Alvarado and Masterman.  There is still a little examination of what actually happens in classrooms though, apparently [one example seems to be won by Williamson in Screen Education 40].  Williamson says that pupils can be instrumental, for example or agree that the images are sexist while still thinking that girls are stupid for believing them (9).  The notion of ideology for them is something abstract and academic, relating to what other people think.  There is also some evidence of working class resistance to the radical line, and this can, ironically, be seen as a form of class struggle between working class pupils and middle class teachers.

Newer work emphasizes the diversity of the media, and the frailty of Media Industries [apparently, Fiske is typical here].  There is also a new emphasis on the media audience, sometimes from an excessive populism, detectable in work like Morley, Hobson, or Ang on how meanings are produced.  Here, kids are no longer cultural dopes, and even some members of the left were able to see some popular television as progressive [as I recall, MacCabe uses this term in discussing some socialist realist pieces such as the legendary trotskyite soap opera Days of Hope].

Media education is certainly growing quickly in schools, especially since the GCSE.  Even the more vocational curricula run by the [defunct Manpower Services Commission] MSC, including [the now abandoned] TVEI and Btec included some work on media.  There is still no close link between GCESs and undergraduate courses or a career structure.  The GCSE is still based on academic theories of media, but it is now much more diverse, and practical work is more important—this has been condemned by Screen and neglected by the likes of Masterman [surely not in the later editions?].  Generally, there is a move to attempt to be active and student centred, and to adopt the sort of pedagogy found in primary schools.

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