The Myth of Media Literacy

Zoë Druick


Since the late 1990s, media literacy has become an increasingly prominent paradigm within the fields of media and communication studies in the United States and elsewhere. This article investigates the convergence of forces in that propelled this approach to its currently ascendant position. With a nod to Harvey J. Graff’s analysis of the mythic power associated with the concept of literacy, the article explores the techniques and rationales that have coalesced around media literacy, making it at once central to the operation of neoliberal capitalism and to its critique. Putting media literacy into a longer history of the instrumental and biopolitical use of media in education and considering the role of education in connecting children’s interests to moral and economic regulation, media literacy is taken to be the most recent iteration of a long-standing set of ideas that have been taken up in different ways by early educational reformers, postwar development communications theorists, and countercultural media educators.


media literacy, myth of literacy, neoliberalism, education, development media

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