The intensity of photo op politics so distinctive to our times was set in motion in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan and his media team, headed by Michael Deaver, mastered the art of the modern media event. So successful was the Reagan team at setting up compelling television pictures -- from using the beaches at Normandy as a backdrop to showing Reagan sitting astride his horse at his ranch looking like a classic American cowboy -- that subsequent presidents and presidential candidates emulated the art of stage sets, backdrops, and gripping visuals to convey their messages through pictures.
This reminded me again of the need to integrate media literacy into all aspects of the curriculum.
If we don't imbue in our students not only the ability to deconstruct visual messages, but the mere recognition that media images are carefully nuanced constructs with definite agenda, we set them up for manipulation by corporate and government interests and inadvertently undermine their freedoms.
This is not fluffy, "feel good" education decried by the back-to-basics movement and which NCLB was partially imposed to rectify.
With the plethora of visual media exposure for today's public, media literacy is as fundamental to a child's education as reading and writing. Only when students can as readily analyze the various media elements as well as they can The Great Gatsby*, can we declare "Mission Accomplished!"
*(OK, I recognize that they can't always even do THAT very well, but we need to spend as much time discussing and analyzing the evening news and the latest commercial as we do Gatsby!)