CRUE Discussion Guide: Critical Media Literacy

Recently, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa posted a piece on the Psychology Today blog titled: Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?In his post Kanazawa states, “black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women.”Psychology Today quickly pulled down the post after numerous complaints about Kanazawa’s use of pseudoscience and scientific racism. The publication has issued an apology and Kanazawa will no longer be blogging for the site. Below are links to just a few of the numerous articles written in response to Kanazawa’s piece discussing the numerous problems with his assumptions and methodology:

Scott Barry Kaufman: Black Women Are Not Less Attractive: Our Independent Analysis of the Add Health Dataset (Psychology Today)

Hank Campbell: Satoshi Kanazawa and the Freefall of Evolutionary Psychology (Science 2.0)

Daniel R. Hawes: What is Wrong With Asking Why Black Women Are Less Attractive (Psychology Today)

Nanjala Nyabola: Satoshi Kanazawa’s Racist Nonsense Should Not Be Tolerated (Guardian)

Kanazawa’s article is an extreme example of the numerous problems with the way producers of media interpret and represents statistics and scientific studies. When pieces like this get posted on mainstream and reputable websites it serves as a reminder of the value of critical media literacy. As educators, it is important that we are media literate and can pass on the skills and knowledge students need to become critical and thoughtful consumers of media.

Discussion Questions:

Take a look at Ellis Cose’s article, Meet the New Optimists, and pay close attention to his use of statistics.

  1. What assumptions does Cose seem to be making in this article?  How might they impact his conclusions?
  2. What do you think about the message Cose’s derives from his statistics? What are some other ways the data could be interpreted?
  3. Is there any important information is missing from this article? How might the claims of this article be misused or misunderstood?

Additional Resources:

Douglas Kellner & Jeff Share: Critical Media Literacy is Not an Option

Cyndy Scheibe & Faith Rogow: 12 Basic Ways to Integrate Medial Literacy and Critical Thinking into Any Curriculum

Ben Goldacre: Bad Science

Media Education Foundation: Handouts and Articles

ReadWriteThink: Critical Media Literacy Lesson Plan

Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME): Questioning Media: 10 Basic Media Education Principles

Statistical Assessment Service (STATS): A Resource on the Use and Abuse of Science and Statistics in the Media

CRUE Book Studies:

To learn more about culturally responsive education consider signing up for a CRUE Center Book Study like Crystal Kuykendall’s book From Rage to Hope: Strategies for Reclaiming Black and Hispanic Students. Earn 1 graduate credit for just $75.  For more information visit http://www.cruecenter.org/book_study.php or email us at contact@cruecenter.org.

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