Establishing a Media Literacy Cognate at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Comparative Analysis of Existing Courses and Potential of Implementation

Establishing a Media Literacy Cognate at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Comparative Analysis of Existing Courses and Potential of Implementation

Jayne Cubbage (Bowie State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0311-8.ch012
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Abstract

This study explores the need as well as the feasibility of implementing a media literacy cognate at Historically Black Colleges and Universities nationwide. Of the approximately 40 colleges and universities with media studies or communications departments or schools, only three offer a named media literacy course. Similarly, of the communications and media programs with ACEJMC accreditation, only one, Howard University offers a media literacy course. Using diffusion of information theory to explore the knowledge of and eventual adoption of media literacy courses at HBCUs, the study seeks to provide an introduction to schools about their need to teach media literacy to students across the college and university curriculum.
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Media literacy training and education is paramount to the mission of HBCUs with their imperative to educate African Americans, promote a village like learning environment and provide a culturally relevant education for countless scholars who may not otherwise receive an education (Albritton, 2012; ASHE, 2010; Hale, 2006; Jones, 2013; Lovett, 2011). The implementation of media literacy at HBCUs can foster the beginning of the end to pejorative and stereotypical images in various forms of media, which have been prevalent since the dawn of the media age (Wilson, Guitierrez, & Chao, 2013). The full adaption of media literacy can usher in awareness among students and graduates about the various machinations of media, the intentions of media producers and creators, which in many cases, are designed to continue the subjugation and oppression of African Americans and other marginalized groups in U.S. society (Wilson, et al., 2013). With increased consciousness, the realization of individual agency becomes imperative as the alternative to the continued blind consumption of harmful media messages. Media illiteracy can dampen the full benefit of new media technologies including social media and its ability to equalize and address political and social ills. The benefits of new media will not be realized if end users lack complete awareness of the empowering potential of media literacy, (Mercea 2014; Nakagawa & Arzubiaga, 2014; Thevenin, 2012).

Several scholars have noted that media literacy, often defined as the ability to access, analyze, produce and act upon media messages (Hobbs, 2010; Milhailidis, 2009; Potter, 2011) is a vital 21st century skill necessary for full participation and awareness in a democratic society (UNESCO, 2015, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/media-development/media-literacy/). Additionally, media literacy is considered paramount in building critical thinking and fostering increased participation in the creation and production of media. Media literacy can also serve as an equalizing factor in media and educational institutions. Media literacy when realized is ripe with emancipatory potential and liberation for media audiences across racial, geographic and all other socioeconomic strata (Mercea, 2014; Thevenin, 2012).

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