The Willingness to Unlearn

By    Jul 14, 2015
CC Daniel X. O'Neil via Flickr

CC Daniel X. O’Neil via Flickr

You’ve heard from Jeff McCarter, Founder & Executive Director of Free Spirit Media, now Andrea Hart, Civic Media Program Coordinator shares how her values appear in her work. 

I’ve created hyperlocal digital news programs that contextualize learning and build on students’ cultural capital within schools or community spaces in Chicago since 2011. I currently serve as Free Spirit Media’s Civic Media Program Coordinator, and various roles in other entrepreneurial journalism projects. At FSM, I have the privilege of working to create journalism that is more truly democratic and authentically empowering by collaborating with incredible youth.

As a primer on me: I live to laugh and try to earn my blessings on the daily. I was largely reared by a single (by divorce), poor mother and am grateful for the resourcefulness and resiliency my upbringing ingrained in me. My cultural identity greatly shapes the core values that inform my direct practice as a teacher, researcher and innovator. These values center around equality, agency, efficacy and love. How my values manifest are shaped by the teachings of Paolo Friere, Bell Hooks, James Baldwin and Brother Mike Hawkins.

In my newsrooms/classrooms collaborative learning is king—where the instructor and students are having a-ha moments on the regular, together. We use new media to facilitate this equal power dynamic amongst instructor and student (iLove), which forces me to take into consideration the contemporary cultural identity of the youth, which the youth define themselves by deconstructing mainstream media, as well as where they live and how the previously mentioned showcases it. Writing what you know instills a more lasting critical lens. We treat these young people as respected journalists, while also putting value on their experiences growing up on the receiving end of Chicago’s issues of education, juvenile justice, health, and so on (not usually in a statistically pleasant sense). They have the ability to more accurately depict Chicago’s peculiar beauty—a both frustratingly contradictory and earnestly resilient kind. It is essential that we do not to stick to standards and qualifications that are rooted in white privilege that mainstream media puts forth.

By being grounded in the above and using digital platforms we are consciously attempting to redefine contemporary civics since there is an “interactive and peer-based” digital participatory engagement that is emerging amongst youth who “do not defer to elites or formal institutions,” according to participatory politics researcher Cathy Cohen of University of Chicago. To be successful in understanding these new civics and how media making plays an integral role, I model the significance of having an open mind and a willingness to unlearn with my students. Every day we are learning how to be a creature of compassion and less of consumption.