Thursday, September 10, 2009


Hey, it's back-to-school time, and what do we have on tap for young minds hungry for new information and tools of discernment? How about some skills that can be used to see the real purpose of the media and advertising? Oh, and a (not too) short bit about the holocaust. This came home yesterday for me to sign off on (not signing means points deducted from my kid's grade).

Dear 7th grade Parent or Guardian,

This year your student will have the opportunity to participate in a semester long course focusing on Media Literacy and Persuasion. We live in an ever-growing media and technology culture and there is increasing national concern that students of all ages are not trained to correctly interpret all of the media messages that are saturating our society. The Persuasion class is designed to teach students to analyze and evaluate a range of the different media and persuasion techniques so that they can learn to be more critical and thoughtful about the messages they encounter.

The study of Persuasion and Media Literacy is especially important in the middle school years. Middle school students change in these years more than ever before with the exception of their first year of life. They are in the process of discovering who they are and where they fit in. Developmentally, these children are not automatically able to distinguish what is real and not real and they often believe everything they hear. Media sells an image of what you have to do to fit in. It is important for middle school students to learn the skills to distinguish between what media says who you should be and who you really are.

Not only will we be exploring media literacy in modern times, we will be exploring persuasion and propaganda evidenced in our history, specifically the Holocaust. Although we will be using a text that is specifically written for 7th graders, due to the nature of this nonfiction study, some aspects are graphic unpleasant. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

It is impossible to control your child’s access to all media and exposure to persuasion. However, it is possible to empower 7th grade students by teaching life-long skills so that they will be able to analyze, evaluate, and to make sense of the media information and persuasion techniques they encounter in our technological world.


CA, Persuasion ILA teacher




Unit 1: What is communication? Who created this message?

Overview, Media literacy terms

Pre and post test on media literacy terms, reading strategies on concepts not


The world in 22 minutes: Constructing a TV News Lineup

History of advertising

Mini ad campaign

Core Concept #1: All Messages are “Constructed”.

Unit 2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Basic visual language: The three building blocks

Basic visual language: How to analyze a visual text

Basic persuasion Techniques

The power of editing

Pre and post test on persuasion terms

Create media wall

Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

Unit 3: Do you see what I see? Interpreting Media Experiences

Silent symbols speak loudly: Brands, icons and you

Ads-R-Us: Understanding target marketing

Valuing different views: Taking a stand on media violence

Media survey

Core Concept #3: Different people experience the same media messages differently

Unit 4: What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in, or Omitted from, this message?

More than meets the eye: Embedded values in the news

Media stereotypes: How differences divide

Read “The Wave”, a play about influence and mind control

What’s missing? Making Room for Multiple Perspectives

Core Concept #4 Media have embedded values and points of view

Unit 5: Why is this message being sent?

Why we communicate: Three basic tasks: Inform, persuade, and entertain

The business of Media: Who is renting my eyeballs?

Hidden messages: The growth of product placement

Power persuasion, and propaganda: Exploring multiple motives

Core Concept #5 Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Unit 6: Propaganda


Forms and types of propaganda

WWII propaganda discussion

Create propaganda posters

Unit 7: The Holocaust

Video clips, United streaming

Pioneer Press introduction article

Holocaust information survey

Read stories from “The Holocaust”, a historical reader

“All But My Life”, by Gerda Weissmann Klein

“Commanding a Concentration Camp” by Rudolph Hoss

“Liberation” by Lucille Eichengreen

Most Important Word excercises

Vocabulary quiz on each reading

Study guide for each reading

Discussion and critical thinking skills

Minnesota State Common Assessment implemented with these Readings

Computer lab, exploration, Holocaust victim testimony and related websites

Documentary, One Survivor remembers

Documentary, Paper Clips

Here's a quick line from Lucille Eichengreen;

"There was a man who had a knife in his hand, he must have weighed almost seventy pounds. And he was slicing away at a corpse and eating the raw flesh. It was unreal."

There was an additional WTF moment when I read the privacy policy. While going to great lengths to explain how carefully they guard any academic info, the following raised an eyebrow:

a. One exception which permits disclosure WITHOUT PRIOR CONSENT (caps mine) is disclosure to school officials who have legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the school District as an administrator, supervisor, instructor, or support staff member (including health or medical staff and law enforcement personnel); a person serving on the School Board; a person or company with whom the School District has contracted to perform a special task (such as an attorney, auditor, medical consultant, or therapist); or a parent or student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or greivance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.

That's the academic info. Surely PERSONAL info is kept closely under wraps, right?

From the privacy pages;

5. "Directory Information" concerning students is public information and may be disclosed by the School District without prior consent.

a. "Directory Information" includes the following information relating to a student: the student's name; address; telephone number; date of birth; sex; major field of study; dates enrolled in the Mounds View Public Schools; height and weight of members of athletic teams; extra-curricular activities, special acievements and honors. "Directory Information" does not include identifying information on a student's religion, race, color, social position or nationality.

A parent can opt to make the above information "private" simply by sending a letter to the building prinicipal within 30 days of the last publication of the notice. How one determines that time frame is unknown as it is not dated anywhere.

I wont go into the privacy policy regarding military recruiters, but they get access to your kids and their info unless you specifically tell them "no".

Anyone care speculate on what is going on here? I can't wrap my brain around it, but admittedly I'm seeing BS and agendas in many things these days. School sure isn't what it was when I was in 7th grade. I'm looking forward to hitting the road and giving my kids a different perspective and more honest educational tools. My head hurts.