“Nerdy Know-it-Alls” and “Paranoid Parents”: Images of Alternative Learning in Films and Television Programs
Author(s)David Cameron Hauseman
KeywordsSpecial aspects of education
Theory and practice of education
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AbstractThis study examines how homeschooling, unschooling and alternative learners have been portrayed in five recent films and television programs. It also investigates whether the media are grounding their representations of these students and their parents in reality, or if it is disseminating harmful stereotypes that may have detrimental effects for those who choose to learn in this manner in real life.In the wake of numerous (and often misguided) school reform efforts across North America and much of the developed world, many students and their parents have become disillusioned with traditional forms of formal education and find themselves turning to homeschooling, unschooling and other methods of alternative learning that have gained steam and a great deal of credibility over the past decade (Lloyd, 2009). Lloyd (2009) notes that approximately 1.5 million students in the United States of America are homeschooled, with 10-15% of that number representing unschoolers. Homeschooling is a term with which most are familiar. It refers to children who receive their education at home rather than in the confines of a formal classroom. Unschooling, which can differ greatly from homeschooling, is a term used to classify a range of educational philosophies and practices predicated on allowing children to learn through life experience, play and social interaction without being forced to perform tasks by interfering adults (Ricci, 2009, p. 12). While these are two separate and competing educational philosophies, they have been lumped together for the purposes of this paper as the media texts used as the data sources for this study often blur the boundaries between these methods of learning. After a brief exploration of media culture and the ever increasing influence that television and films are having as socialization agents in the lives of youth and adults alike, this study will investigate how students who pursue alternative forms of learning are being represented in five films and television programs produced over the past decade. The images of their parents will also be investigated using a critical analysis approach in an effort to uncover any stereotypes or problematic assumptions embedded within each piece of media.