Students learn to recognize contemporary worldviews by looking for clues about the implied worldview presented in selected newspaper editorials and opinion pieces.
You may wish to refer to Exploring Personal Worldviews (Critical Challenge) to develop background knowledge and understanding for this activity.
Explore media perspectives
Read to the class the following quotation by John Pungente, a Jesuit priest, on ideological and value messages in media:
All media products are advertising, in some sense, in that they proclaim values and ways of life. Explicitly or implicitly, the mainstream media convey ideological messages about such issues as the nature of the good life, the virtue of consumerism, the role of women, the acceptance of authority, and unquestioning patriotism.
Source: John Pungente, S.J. From Barry Duncan et al. Media Literacy Resource Guide, Ontario Ministry of Education, Toronto, ON. Canada, 1989.
Accessed from "Media Literacy Key Concepts." Media Awareness Network. http://www.mediaawareness.ca/english/teachers/media_literacy/key_concept.cfm (20 March 2007).
Clarify for students what is meant by such terms as "mainstream media" and "ideological messages." Teachers may wish to assist students in rewriting the quotation in their own words. Ask students whether they agree or disagree with the conclusion. Discuss why the author believes that newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the Internet advertise a worldview.
As an example, you may want to use a magazine of interest to young adolescents. Provide students with back issues and ask them to examine the magazine for explicit and implicit assumptions about human nature, the good life and equality with others. Brainstorm a list of implied assumptions. Teachers may wish to refer to Interpreting and Reinterpreting Images (Modelling the Tools) for examples of graphic organizers that can be adapted for this activity.
Introduce editorials and opinion pieces as expressions of a worldview
This activity will focus on elements of worldview outlined in Concept of Worldview (Background Information).
Confirm that students understand how an editorial or opinion piece differs from a news article (see References). Invite students to examine an editorial or an opinion piece that represents a particular worldview.
For an example of an opinion piece, you may want to use Sample Letter to the Editor (Background Information) and Letter to the Editor—Sample Analysis (Background Information). Alternatively, provide a list of Internet sources of editorials and opinion pieces (see References).
Identify the basic issue in an editorial
Distribute a copy of the chosen editorial for students to read. Begin by discussing the main issue addressed in the editorial. You may want to ask students questions such as:
- What is the issue under discussion?
- Why is the issue significant?
- Why is the issue controversial?
- What is the author’s opinion on the issue?
If necessary, provide additional background to help students understand the issue presented in the editorial.
Identify the implied worldview in an editorial
Invite students to identify the implied worldview of the author of the editorial. Draw attention to each element of a worldview. Help students look for clues about the author’s beliefs and assumptions.
To guide students in their analysis, see prompts in Clues for Identifying Worldviews (Background Information) in Exploring Worldview (Support Material).
Students may also use the chart Analyzing Worldview in Exploring Worldview (Support Material) to record their conclusions about the author’s worldview and the supporting evidence.
Analyze two editorials on the same issue
After students understand how to analyze documents for the implied worldview, locate two editorials or opinion pieces that focus on the same issue, e.g., environment, medicine or human rights, but represent different worldviews. Although the point of the activity is to contrast worldviews, sensitivity is required in avoiding articles that may be offensive to some students or that may encourage negative attitudes. The objective is to promote open and respectful discussion. Begin by discussing the general issue addressed in the editorials and then direct students to examine the implied worldview.
Invite students to use copies of the chart Analyzing Worldview in Exploring Worldview (Support Material) to record the conclusions and supporting evidence for each of the articles.
Compare the worldviews in two editorials
Arrange for students to compare their conclusions about the implied worldviews of the two editorials. Students may also compare their supporting evidence.
Extension: Use values lines to compare worldview elements
Ask students to draw a series of values lines, one for each element in a worldview. They may wish to refer to Personal Worldview Questionnaire in Exploring Worldview (Support Material). Students identify points on the lines to indicate where the two editorial writers are in relationship to each other.
For example, a comparison of the worldviews of person A and person B are represented on this value line for human nature:
View of human nature: People are naturally good or naturally evil.
Ask students to share their conclusions.