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Reel Diversity

A Teacher’s Sourcebook – Revised Edition


Brian C. Johnson and Sykra C. Blanchard

The first edition of Reel Diversity: A Teacher’s Sourcebook won the 2009 Phillip C. Chinn Book Award of the National Association for Multicultural Education. This revised edition is an updated resource guide for educators in secondary and university classrooms who desire to integrate mainstream and independent films into their instructional content about diversity and social justice. The book has transformed difficult dialogues in classrooms around the country by helping educators identify full-length films and shorter film clips to enhance, energize, and motivate student learning.
Accessible and practical for both novice and advanced educators, the book provides a lexicon of twenty-five definitions that teachers and learners should understand about difference, awareness, and power. Assignments, classroom activities, and lecture notes highlight these definitions in ways that deeply impact students’ multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. Reel Diversity invites cross-cultural dialogue about films’ mixed messages and how they enforce and reinforce cultural values. Students will emerge with a greater understanding of the educational value of this entertainment medium. The book is perfect for courses in mass media, film studies, American studies, mass communication, and media literacy.
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2. Creating a Common Lexicon


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One of the most important steps to take in diversity education is to ensure that all participants in the dialogue share a common lexicon or language about diversity. Teachers who wish to explore deeper levels of diversity dialogue have a responsibility for increasing access to that dialogue. Many times students do not have the vocabulary to allow them to participate freely; fear of “saying the wrong thing” is often very significant (especially for majority students). This reticence is a major deterrent to speaking about difference. In his book, Frames of Mind, Howard Gardner (1983) suggests that those with a keen understanding of their strengths and needs are in much better position than those with limited or faulty self-knowledge.

Diversity educators often talk about the necessity for cross-cultural competencies; or, having the cultural awareness (of self and others), factual knowledge about the cultural traditions and mores of others, and the behavioral skills necessary to navigate cross-cultural situations. In their book Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs, Pope, Reynolds, and Mueller (2004) have identified the ability to communicate across lines of difference as paramount to achieving competence. Traditional foci on differences have created chasms that are difficult to cross. Students need to be able to have significant conversations about relationships, ethnicity, activism, and outlooks on life.

Students fail to move into deeper engagement with the issues mainly because of a lack of preparedness for such conversations. Majority students, in particular, have difficulty approaching the topics...

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