Rise, decline, and re-emergence of media literacy education in the United States: 1960--2000

Ranjit Tigga, Marquette University


The pattern of media literacy education in the United States diverged sharply from the pattern of other leading English-speaking countries such as Canada, England, and Australia, each of which had a unique history but without an abrupt decline which marked the American experience. While media literacy education grew uninterrupted in Canada, England, and Australia, in the United States it grew steadily and consistently in the 1960s and the 1970s, went dormant in the 1980s, and re-emerged in the 1990s. This study seeks to analyze the roles of five major factors--the education system, the media industries, social and religious institutions, political bodies, and major individuals--on the development of media literacy education in the United States between 1960 and 2000. The data was collected through in-depth interviews of ten leading resource persons and reviews of public documents and archival materials. The samples chosen for interviews were involved 20 years or more in media literacy education. The purposeful sampling method was used to select the ten best and information-rich scholars and media literacy educators in the United States. The data was analyzed using grounded theory and constant comparative analysis technique developed by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss. The findings of the study indicate that in the formative stage individual media literacy educators were very active and committed to the development of media literacy education. But in the 1980s, media literacy education declined because of the "back-to-the-basics" movement in the education system, overemphasis on computer literacy, lack of federal and private funding, lack of public support, protectionist approach to media literacy, lack of teacher training, absence of institutional support, conservative political policies toward media literacy, crowded curriculum, lack of clear understanding and vision of media literacy, and educational diversity. In the 1990s there was a significant attention to media literacy education because of public concern over youth violence. An increasing number of public and private schools, social and religious institutions, media companies, government departments, and individuals joined the movement of media literacy education.

Recommended Citation

Tigga, Ranjit, "Rise, decline, and re-emergence of media literacy education in the United States: 1960--2000" (2009). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3357973.