This paper is an attempt to clarify how we might think about the term critical media literacy: what it means, how it differs from other forms of media literacy, and what the pedagogical and political implications of embracing critical media literacy might be.
I argue that there is currently profound trepidation, if not outright fear, of the term critical, even by many of those who are committed to media literacy education. The fear of a critical approach to media education often presents itself as resistance to radical educators who are said to engage in the indoctrination of young people into their own political beliefs. Those who resist the notion of critical media literacy argue that media education should not be focused on “bashing the media,” a term I have heard numerous times at media literacy forums. In this paper I will deconstruct those myths while arguing for a form of media education that is based in critical theory, critical cultural studies, critical race theory, feminism, political economic analysis, and multiculturalism. In addition to advocating for critical thinking about media images and messages this holistic and contextual approach goes beyond this by performing institutional analysis and focusing on the role media play in legitimizing oppressive ideologies and reinforcing established power, while also advocating for alternative media and media activism. I conclude by arguing that in the current context of neoliberalism and the broad based attack on liberatory education, a truly critical approach to media literacy is a necessary and crucial intervention.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/bill_yousman/38/