MediaSmarts Blog

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The recently released Pew Report Teens, Video Games and Civicshas revived the question about whether video games can be a worthwhile activity. Another recent entry in this debate is Jim Rossignol’s This Gaming Life, a survey of computer gaming culture and a chronicle of its role in the author’s life.

Joe McGinniss’ book The Selling of the President had a shocking title for 1968, suggesting as it did that in the television age the presidency had become nothing more than another product to be packaged and sold. A new MNet resource, Watching the Elections (a lesson for Grade 8 to 12 Social Studies classes), shines a light on how the different aspects of an election – from the debates to political ads to the candidates themselves – are actually media products.

It’s been a rough couple of months for a brat. Or rather for Bratz – the giant-headed, almond-eyed, scantily dressed dolls that have been giving Barbie a scare for the last few years. One of the toy success stories of the last decade, the Bratz juggernaut now shows signs of slowing down: first, a $100 million judgment against the dolls’ manufacturer, MGA Entertainment, which ruled that the original designer first drew them while still under contract at Mattel; then a successful campaign by parents to keep Bratz books out of the Scholastic catalogue, which places books in thousands of schools across North America; and, most painfully, reports that stores have cut shelf space for Bratz by as much as 50 per cent.

The Web is full of great online resources for teachers and students, with new material appearing every day. With the approach of the most-anticipated American election in recent history, social studies teachers can be excused for turning their eyes south of the border. Here’s a quick overview of recently created (or recently discovered) resources for social studies classes to help them and their students make the most of election season:

An alien anthropologist, studying North American culture, might wonder why it is that despite the increasing economic and political power of women over the last forty years, appearance and behaviour seem to be more gender-typed than ever. A walk through any department store would give this anthropologist a clear notion of gender roles in children and teens: boys are warriors and superheroes, clad in camouflage (the new blue); girls are princesses, dressed always in pink. Packaging Girlhood, by Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown, acts as a guide to parents and teachers who – perhaps remembering a time of boys and girls in t-shirts, jeans or unisex overalls – may be as perplexed by all this as our alien would be.