Celebrating Project Censored @ 40 and Building the CMLE Movement

by Ben Boyington

At Project Censored’s 40th birthday summit in late October, more than 250 activists and educators gathered at Sonoma State University in Northern California to celebrate media freedom and media literacy education. In 14 discussion panels and numerous impromptu meetings, attendees gathered for collaborative discussion and to build plans for action.

ACME was honored to co-sponsor this event and to participate in the summit, with board members both leading sessions and engaging as audience members. The critical media literacy education (CMLE) movement is, to exercise the cliché, a big tent. While it was clear that we represent an incredibly diverse range of political and educational beliefs and approaches, two beliefs bind us all together: media freedom is essential to the flow of information necessary to a democratic society; critical media literacy education is crucial to our engagement in that democratic society and to our society’s success. No matter our individual beliefs or the differences among CMLE organizations, these core principles drive our shared mission; they are the tentpoles of the movement.

As I listened, tweeted, spoke, and engaged with other activists, I was continually reminded of what brings us all together. I was struck foremost by the fire and knowledge of youth and by the connections made across generations and areas of action. And I was thrilled to be reminded that the movement is larger and more broad than we often think. Working in the CMLE tent are public policy experts, K–12 teachers, college professors in a great many disciplines, media producers, independent journalists, and—in some ways most important of all—student and youth activists. The future of critical media literacy education, of independent media, of activism that will shake our country from its complacence, was laid out before me twice this year—once in April, at the ACME/Sacred Heart University summit, and again in Sonoma on October 21 and 22. We all work, separately and together, to live these beliefs and to bring critical engagement to life in our schools and in our streets.

17-lori-gcmlpNow it is time to transform words and plans into action. On October 22, ACME, Project Censored, and Sacred Heart University’s Media Literacy and Digital Culture graduate program formally launched the Global Critical Media Literacy Project, an initiative for collaborative critical media literacy education. Summit organizers are assembling a working action plan from the discussions held over those two days at Sonoma State; GCMLP will play a central role in building digitally networked actions across the country and across the globe. Action is the answer; it is time to turn our words into deeds, to push ourselves to turn our hopes and our fears into movement toward the creation of a truly media-literate society of committed actors.

Ben Boyington, M.Ed., is a veteran teacher and education consultant whose high-school media studies work is based on the idea that skepticism and activism are essential to citizenship. His research into the 1:1 screen initiative is published in Media Education for a Digital Generation.

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