How My Students Explore Cultural Struggle

Article excerpt

Students demonstrate the degree to which they have become adept at explaining cultural struggles in ideological terms in their current events presentations. Each chooses an article from one of the mainstream newspapers or from an alternative news source, most of which come from the Internet. The chosen article must address a cultural issue, namely, race, class, gender, sexuality, or war. Each student provides a one-page written analysis to address issues of bias to show which groups benefit and which ones lose from the given ideological perspective. They must offer their thoughts about who was quoted and why, and which groups were excluded. Each student must also present his or her findings to the class with a four-to-five minute presentation. I provide the classes with the names and websites of the mainstream newspapers and of the alternative news sources. Some students choose only articles from mainstream sources, while others willingly, even enthusiastically, search the alternative sources. This has worked well, pedagogically speaking, because students often choose articles on similar topics - the 2004 American election and the Iraq war were two favourites - and the ideologies emanating from mainstream and alternative sources are not difficult to discern. These assignments offer students a framework in which to critique the media in terms of the ideological influences of journalists, and in the process, they understand how mainstream media often reflects the views of powerful interests.

One example of a student deconstructing a Vancouver Sun article on panhandling demonstrated that she could connect the media to outside economic and political interests. The article, entitled "Aggressive beggars back off: Panhandling complaints are down since new law was passed; street people say the situation has improved," was clearly supportive of the right-wing B. …