"Overwhelming Hate," "Why I Like Disturbing Music," "Eminem: Rapper or Hypocrite?": these are not necessarily typical titles of student English essays.
The essays were written as part of a nine-week unit in my 11th grade English class on violence in society. In the unit, we address a variety of topics - from domestic violence, to urban poverty, to racist police policies in communities of color. One of the unit's more popular sections involves violence and the media, in particular sexist violence. The most useful resource I have found for this section is the program Beyond Blame: Challenging Violence in the Media, produced by the Center for Media Literacy in Los Angeles.
The producers of Beyond Blame recognize that "media violence is not the sole cause of violence in society." But they go on to note that "more and more we're coming to understand that they [the media] do reinforce the myths and images, beliefs and attitudes that support a culture of violence."
Beyond Blame is not a single resource but is a comprehensive packet of articles, lesson plans and worksheets, and a video of excerpts pulled from films, television, documentaries, and other media texts (see box). These materials provide sufficient background and resources for a week to two-week presentation by teachers, parents, or community organizers. (In the two times I've used this program, I have yet to cover all the material.)
Some of the most provocative debates in my class have grown out of the program's discussions about media violence and sexist images of women, and about the media's glorification of violent solutions to conflict.