THEME: A VEHICLE OF CULTURE AND VALUES
1. Children up to six years of age
To parents and teachers
I. YOUR CHILD NEEDS:
Evangelization has its supreme success in the moment of joy.
Every child is "...a PERSON; his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. By virtue of this he has rights and duties of his own, flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature, which are therefore universal, inviolable and inalienable..." (Pacem in Terris)
...this is the starting point for an education for peace, which can only be achieved if adults are mindful of their duties and children enjoy their rights.
It is always the "couple", father and mother, that provides the sense of life and love that leads to joy.
* Beauty, truth, etc.:
The true values are "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness and selfcontrol"(Gal.5, 22-23). The child needs the experience of love, joy, forgiveness, sincerity, trust in others, little acts of kindness, respect for other people's property, obedience.
* To discover the spiritual and the supernatural dimension.
It is from the parents' attitude and their way of living their love for each other that children are led to discover the sense of God-as-Love, of trust in Him, of His Fatherhood...
--The child's world is rich with images, perceptions, the feeling of hidden powers slowly being revealed..., a sense of wonder before nature, before humankind...
--It takes just a glance, a smile, a voice, a song, for the child to communicate with the world.
--The message that we transmit to children today will lay the basis of their future response to education and of their future attitude towards themselves, towards their neighbour and towards God.
--Their first moments of wonder, their first excited admiration for things, people, animals, are their first steps towards the presence of God. It is essential, in this delicate stage of their lives, to ensure that our children are truly free to make their own choices.
--if it is now, while children are still incapable of judging and distinguishing, that the foundations are being laid for the development of their personality...
--of their life of faith and love...
--and if we know that images can act on them with all their hidden power...
We educators must ask ourselves:
--What standards do we apply when choosing television programmes?
--When and why do we take children to the cinema?
--What comics and magazines do we buy them?
--Do we help them to "reflect" to the best of their ability?
--Have we ever thought that leaving the radio or television on at full blast can affect their nerves? or that uncontrolled exposure to media programmes can draw them away from spiritual values by bombarding them with images that exalt false values?
--Do we surround them with beautiful things?
--Do we educate them, with all the means in our power, to a sense of beauty, harmony, peace, respect and love for others, to all the things which reflect the goodness and fatherhood of God?
2. Children from 7 to 10
To parents and teachers
I. THINGS TO REMEMBER
--Your children are moulded by what they see and hear;
--They assimilate uncritically;
--They have great intuition and are more accustomed to absorbing audio-visual language than adults;
--On the other hand, they will have difficulty in understanding the real meaning of the message conveyed, if they have not been taught to go beyond the outward sign, since interpreting the message is a process of synthesis and internalizing; (1).
Television programmes, where the image is less eloquent and polished than in cinema films but is also closer to everyday life, more capable of speaking directly to people and involving them through a sense of reality, offer a valuable opportunity for shedding the light of Christian standards on daily life;
In films, the image, sound track, content and message should all be studied and appraised;
Also the words and music and the message of songs should be listened to and interpreted;
Printed matter (comics, children's magazines, etc.) provides the best opportunity for encouraging young people to choose goodness and beauty rather than the negative values of violence, sex, egoism, etc.
II. WHAT CAN WE DO?
--Are we aware of our responsibility with regard to the choice of TV, radio and cinema programmes which our children follow?
--What can we do to get them to read the signs and symbols ever present in TV, motion pictures, radio and the press, and in daily life?
--Do we watch television with them so that we can talk about the programmes together, or do we leave them to watch on their own?
--How do we choose their magazines, and those we buy for ourselves and leave around the house?
--How can we help them to make responsible Christian choices free from the coercion of false values, and to check the message coming from the mass media against the message of Christ?
III. PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR TEACHERS
To help children to discover and assimilate the above concepts, activities such as the following could be useful:
a) Ask them to write a composition or draw pictures expressing their opinions on the negative and positive aspects of the mass media for their age-group;
b) Make crossword puzzles on the values of the mass media;
c) Carefully analyse a children's programme and make an objective criticism of it (valid? negative? amoral? biased?);
d) Get them to watch a TV programme and then suggest that they make up one like it, but emphasizing the good aspects they noticed;
e) Using pictures and music of their choice, reconstruct a parable from the Gospel;
f) Organize the making of a collage on the theme of Charity (or Truth, etc.) with illustrations cut from comics (e.g. Mickey Mouse Weekly, etc.);
g) Ask them to answer the following questionnaire:
1. What TV programmes do you watch most frequently?
What positive values do you find in them?
What Christian values do you find in them?
What would you not like to see on TV?
If you were a director, what would you propose?
2. What films have you seen in the last three months?
Who with? When?
Which of the characters in the films would you like to be like? Why?
Was there a film which frightened you? Why?
What films would you not like to see again?
3. What are your favourite songs? Why?
Do you know that every song has a message?
Do you try to find out what it is?
(make a list of ten songs with their messages)
Why do you like music? Do you listen to music alone or in company? Why?
4. Which comics and children's magazines do you read most?
What do you find good in them?
What do you find bad?
Which ones help you most to live as a Christian and which least?
Are there any you wish you hadn't read?
In completing and going over this questionnaire, it should be borne in mind that it is in this period of their lives that children's moral sense is being formed, and that our guidance must be clear, calm and enlightened, helping them to acquire stability and to respond according to their free and conscious faith.
3. For children from 11 to 14
The value "friendship"
I. GENERAL THEME(2)
Why this theme was chosen: The pre-adolescent is sensitive to this particular value, FRIENDSHIP, considered as an aspect of a spiritual value: GOOD.
Objective: To lead the pre-adolescent, according to his capacities, to an analysis of the image as a means of conveying messages and also as an affirmation or denial of values, by trying to awaken his critical attitude towards the "civilization of the image", in which he is called to live and in which, in fact, he is already living.(3).
This catechetical activity is intended to be developed in three stages, each with a specific aim, but at the same time it should maintain a certain logical unity in keeping with the general theme.
a) First stage
Objective: to make it unambiguously clear to young people that THE IMAGE SPEAKS, it conveys a message.
Method: Direct analysis of two or three carefully chosen pictures which express or deny the value FRIENDSHIP (figures to be selected from a collection of photos, etc., previously taken by the teacher from magazines, etc.).
The figures must be analysed in five steps:
-Look at the image simply as a picture;
-Look at the image as something to stimulate ideas;
-Look at the expression of the image;
-Observe the effects of the image on oneself;
-Communicate all this to the group (cf. The Audio-visual and Faith, p. 143).
b) Second stage:
Objective: to make the group clearly aware that THROUGH THE IMAGE PEOPLE AFFIRM OR DENY CERTAIN VALUES.
Method: Divide the youngsters up into two groups. Ask each of these to make a "poster" with photographs taken from magazines, newspapers, etc. expressing their ideas of FRIENDSHIP. The photos used should be numbered. Under the guidance of the teacher the young people choose which ones they want to use and make their posters. These should then be displayed and compared, with each group giving its opinion of the other group's work and, in turn, explaining what they were trying to say with their own poster.
c) Third stage:
Objective: to make them realize beyond doubt that in daily life the image has a profound influence on one's own scale of values and consequently on one's own human and Christian personality.
Method: a critical study of the value FRIENDSHIP in a comic: (4). How is it affirmed or denied? What reaction does it usually provoke? What influence does it have on one's life as a Christian?
--Pictures plus photographs taken from magazines and other publications which the teacher considers useful and evocative.
--"Notes for the Teacher" (below), with guidelines and questionnaires to help in the analysis of the images, the comparison of the posters and the criticism of the comic.
III. NOTES FOR THE TEACHER
a) First stage:
1. Guide the adolescents to carry out the analysis of the pictures following the five steps indicated;
2. Ask two or three appropriate questions to set them thinking and start interpreting the pictures;
3. Initiate an exchange of ideas on the pictures, pointing out the most important contributions.
b) Second stage:
1. Watch the groups quietly as they work, help them if they ask, but never take over;
2. Guide the comparing of the posters with suitable comments when necessary;
3. Sum up the discussion for them and make a critico-formative statement on true Christian friendship.
c) Third stage:
1. Suggest one or two criteria for the critical analysis of the comic (film, TV programme, etc.), help them along with a few simple questions suited to their age-level;
2. Join with them in evaluating the elements or scenes that particularly aroused their attention;
3. Guide them to a value judgement of their own attitude to friendship as Christian adolescents, and from this stimulate them to review their lives and renew their personal commitment.
4. Youth in general
Reflections on various suggestions
for direct participation
I. TELEVISION PROGRAMMES
Starting about five weeks before the Centenary celebrations begin, it would be a good idea to transmit a weekly series of short programmes specially designed for children (but also taking parents into account) on a local television network.
A catechist, religious or lay, could read a portion of the Holy Scriptures to five or six children in the studio with him, and then talk it over with them, possibly with questions and even little acted scenes, music, etc. With the right preparation this would also provide an opportunity for direct participation in the mass media. In this way, indirectly, parents as well as children would start to get some idea of the possibilities of television in religious matters. The children to take part in this programme would be chosen from one of the local parishes, with no advance announcement of the following week's team (the element of surprise is always a great attraction), and would be prepared by the catechist.
A local programme is more suitable than a transmission on a nation-wide network, because of its personal interest. This suggestion would also be a good way of awakening the community to the significance of the Centenary of the Cinema.
II. CROSSWORD PUZZLES
Crossword puzzles have a universal appeal because they are a challenge for all ages. They offer ample space for invention and can be adapted to suit any age or community. They can easily be compiled for a modern spiritual context aware of the power and scope of the media, and could also refer to the Centenary celebrations.
Crosswords are also a good way of getting through to teenagers; in practice they can act like real "questionnaires" and spark off discussion as well.
III. SONG CONTESTS
Basic premise: the spiritual message of a song that is "lived" can reach people of all ages.
Activities: we propose that part of the Centenary celebrations be dedicated to music.
1. Choose a good composer to write suitable words and music for a song associated with the Centenary of the Motion Picture, on national or diocesan level;
2. Organize a song contest on the theme: "The Motion Picture, Vehicle for Culture and Spiritual Values" (with explanations):
--Words and music for guitar (or piano, etc)
--Age-limit or division into age-groups
Prizes: guitar, CDs, tape recorders, etc., depending on the age and interests of the various groups contesting. The winning composition(s) to be presented, with due publicity, in the diocesan cathedral on the Day.
5. Young people from 15 to 18
Outline of catechetics programme
To arouse in young people the necessary critical capacity so that they can discover spiritual values in the mass media.
We believe that the mass media can be a vehicle for culture and spiritual values, provided our young people adopt an active and personal attitude towards them. The following suggestions are aimed at stimulating such an attitude. They should not be seen as other than a way of awakening in young people a capacity for critical evaluation enabling them not to be enslaved to the media while appreciating the good things they offer.
The theme we have chosen as an example is: HOW A MAN OR WOMAN SHOULD BE TODAY: THE ROLE MODELS THE MEDIA OFFER US.
Other subjects young people care about could equally well have been selected. Below is a short list of some suitable themes:
The teacher or the young people themselves should choose the theme or themes which are of genuine interest to the group on the educational level.
III. FIRST EXERCISE
The role-model in pictures and photographs
1. Starting point
On a display board pin up pictures (photos, postcards, etc.) of male and female rôle models as presented in magazines, posters, TV, films, etc., preferably provided by the young people themselves. Set up a straightforward exhibition of all these pictures, on the blackboard or any kind of panel.
2. Understanding the medium
The images of the mass media are a reflection of society itself. In other words, every society has the audio-visual media it deserves. It is important for young people to be critically aware of the mass media environment, including the press, that they are living in.
Following the exercises described below may help to achieve this goal:
Get each young person to pick out from the material displayed the picture of the person he or she sees most frequently in magazines, film posters, etc. They are not to choose the picture which impresses them most, but the person who is shown most often on the media.
Set out all their choices and find the one which they agree appears most frequently. Once this has been established, get them to describe what they think are the ambitions and life-style of the man or woman in the picture. This is a fundamental stage in analysing how the medium works. Each young person or group should write down the ambitions they think they see. These can be expressed with such phrases as:
1. I want to be a big success.
2. I couldn't care less about other people.
3. Money is the only thing that counts in life.
3. Christian analysis of the medium
Now the chosen picture must be evaluated from the Christian point of view.
What values or non-values do the young people see in the type of person depicted?
A marked contrast between the Gospel message and the message the image emits may emerge, one that will let us see just how Christian the values of the mass media are.
One can also look among the pictures on the display board for the one which most approaches the Christian mentality and study it in the same way.
4. Personal attitudes towards the mass media
Through the analysis of the picture the group should also examine their own usual attitude to what they see on the media. Do they normally analyse everything they see and evaluate it as they have done in this session?
What consequences derive from a personal and active appraisal of what is offered and what are the results of swallowing indiscriminately everything they are fed?
Undoubtedly they talk to their friends about what they see... How serious or otherwise are their comments?
What rôle-model is reflected in the pictures which our young people keep at home, in their schoolbags and in their books? Why have they chosen that type of person as their ideal?
The same method used here with still pictures could also be applied to screen images or to characters in certain books; they could judge the star of a movie or a soap, or the hero or heroine of a novel or a play...
IV. SECOND EXERCISE
The world of sound
This exercise may be more difficult than the preceding one. All the same, we think it may be constructive, as young people spend much of their lives with transistors, Walkmans, etc. To make it easier we have dispensed with a set theme, letting the trend emerge from the songs which are chosen.
1. Starting point
We could begin by listening to some songs, songs with various kinds of "atmosphere" - for example, a protest song, a song with superficial Iyrics and an easy tune, a poetic song...
2. Understanding the medium
Once the songs have been heard, they should be analysed. In a first exercise, for example, each young person could listen to a song of his or her choice. Then, as they wish, each group could set up a small panel of photos which tie in well with the song they have chosen, virtually transposing it into images.
The picture panels will give substance, visible form to the songs, greatly facilitating their analysis. With this translation before them, it will be a revelation to the young people when they realize how every song conjures up a world for our ears. Because it is also through hearing that we apprehend the world. The panels they have mounted will be proof of this.
Now the groups can listen to the songs again, looking at the illustrated versions they have created at the same time.
3. Christian analysis of the medium
Evaluate the world reflected by each song in the light of the Christian message. From the Christian point of view, what positive things are presented by each song, and what negative?
Which songs reflect a world, an environment, a life-style most consonant with the Christian message?
4. Personal attitudes towards the mass media
Do you like a particular kind of song? Is it because it really says something to you, or because it's the fashion?
Many young people just turn on the radio and listen to whatever is on. What do you think of this behaviour? What are its advantages and drawbacks?
When you listen to music, do you criticize it in any way?
6. For parents
Round table on children and the mass media
To promote greater awareness of the importance of the mass media in the lives and education of their children.
II. FIRST STAGE: ADVANCE PREPARATION
1. Nominate a committee to prepare the round table, including:
-the Headmaster/Headmistress of the school
-a representative of the teaching staff
-parents of pupils, etc.
2. Hold a first meeting to define the tasks of the various members, to make arrangements for the round table and in particular to:
-look for ways to make parents grasp just how much effect the media have on their children, e.g. through surveys among children, parents, teachers (see suggestions below);
-fix the date of the parents' meeting (before the opening of the Centenary year);
-decide on practical issues (possible ordering of relevant publications for families, special projects in school, songs to learn, etc.).
III. SECOND STAGE: IMMEDIATE PREPARATION (5)
1. The preparatory committee should:
-study the findings of its surveys, etc. and send the results to all families, with a reminder of the date of the parents' meeting;
-decide on who is to lead the discussion, the secretary, etc. and prepare a brief agenda which can later be abandoned if fruitful debate develops on an unlisted theme.
IV. THIRD STAGE: PARENTS' MEETING
The parents should first assess the results of the surveys, after which the meeting could proceed by discussing the points suggested in the section for Adult Groups, below. The Minutes of the Meeting should subsequently be sent to all parents, with a reminder of the date of the anniversary we are celebrating.
V. SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR THE PREPARATORY SURVEYS
1. For children
Ask precise questions:
-How many hours a week do you watch TV?
-Which comics/illustrated magazines do you prefer?
-Have you got a camera? a tape recorder? a video camera?
-How many times do you go to the cinema every month?
Ask them to
-name three songs by a currently fashinable pop singer/song writer;
-name the principal characters of a soap or series they particularly like;
-answer a number of questions about TV programmes they have seen over the last three months.
If the survey is properly handled, it will be possible to obtain a rough idea of the intellectual benefit our children receive from television.
Questions of appraisal:
-What film or programme did you enjoy most in the last three months? Why?
-Which programrne seemed the most objective (explain the word)? Why?
-Which programme did you think was the most useful? Why?
-Which programme was the worst or most unpleasant? Why?
-Was there any programme that seemed untrue to you? Why?
-Were there any that seemed harmful?
-Were there any programmes that helped you to see the goodness in life?
The questions should be stated so that they require only short answers and can be easily evaluated.
2. For parents
Only a few suggestions are offered for this second survey, since it is a much more difficult undertaking. It will only be profitable with a very open and well-disposed group, i.e. of parents of children in the same class who meet frequently to discuss their common problems.
All the same, it is still possible to carry out a very brief enquiry, to check one or two points emerging from the children's replies. The teachers could send the parents a short questionnaire, to be returned in a closed envelope, with questions such as:
-How much time do your children spend in front of the TV every week (not forgetting when the TV is on at mealtimes)?
-What comics and illustrated papers do they read?
-Do they like taking photographs? etc.
And one or two more important questions could also be asked:
-Was there any particular film/TV programme or magazine in the last three months that had a good influence on your children? Which?
-Did you all talk about it afterwards?
-Was it in any way helpful for your children's religious education?
3. For teachers
This is even more difficult but could be very useful. (To avoid any sense of reproof, it should perhaps be mentioned that according to a recent survey carried out in France 75 percent of audiovisual teaching aids are never used.)
Possible questions are:
-Do you ever use audio-visual media in your lessons? Which kind? For what purpose?
-Do you use them to help children to understand the the values in life? What values, and how?
-Do you encourage the children to start viewing the media according to aesthetic, moral and spiritual criteria?
7. Adult groups
Points for reflection
I. THE FACTS AS OBSERVED
1. On the positive side:
--The concern sometimes shown for objectivity in reporting events of a spiritual nature (in a broad sense);
--Programme time reserved for religious information and values;
--The efforts made by some sections of the press and other media to ensure that religious matters are covered by journalists with the proper religious and professional qualifications.
--The interest shown, even by non-practising Christians and unbelievers, in the Christian press and/or religious progammes of quality.
2. On the negative side:
--Intentional, meaningful omissions aimed at disparaging or concealing spiritual values (when not advocating outright atheism);
--Misinformation: ignoring the essential in favour of the detail, the marginal, the unattractive aspect, which is then blown up into something sensational, extraordinary, even scandalous;
--Biased interpretation of facts and religious teaching; one-sided public opinion campaigns (e.g. against the celibacy of the priesthood); exploitation of certain statements to further unrelated interests;
--The indifferent, negative or even destructive attitude to spiritual values and religious information on the media on the part of viewers and readers - among ourselves and all around us.
3. The disastrous or regrettable effects of such attitudes on the soul
--Doubt, eclecticism, indifference, even rebellion (for example, among young people).
II. SOME REFLECTIONS ON WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
1. It is only right that the marvellous opportunities offered by modern mass communications techniques should be used to aid the development of humankind: of the whole man and woman, of all men and women, on the human plane and on the level of their highest values, of their most sublime aspirations. Among these spiritual values are religious values, which for us Christians are sumrned up in the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.
2. Just as they have a right to other values, men and women have a right to information concerning the life of their religious congregation (events, teachings) and even to receive instruction (through programrnes or articles on religious culture); to be reminded of what they live by, what they are building, what they seek.
3. The institutions which serve humanity through religious values (religions, churches) have the right to be presented truthfully, to have their life and teachings shown with objectivity, without favour but also without deformation.
4. Every one of us - individual, group, association - is responsible for the way the media develop and their use for or against the integral development of humankind and "the elevation of the authentic culture of peoples" (cf.Communio et Progressio, 63-100; Aetatis Novae, 13).
III. POSSIBLE ACTION
--What can we do to improve the situation in the various media, both individually and collectively?
--Express compliments and thanks for good programmes and articles; criticize and protest where necessary, demanding corrections or the right to refute publicly; launch petitions;
--Train professionals in communications, concerned to respect and promote religious values;
--Collaborate on an ecumenical basis, do as much as possible together; keep your own identity and respect that of others;
--Exploit the possibilities offered by the Centenary of the Motion Picture to make people aware of these problems (cf. Communio et Progressio, 135-160; Aetatis Novae, 31).