Jersey Shore’s Snooki? Bad news. Eminem, circa 2010? Inspiring.
That’s how a group of 14 ninth-graders from area high schools weighed in on cultural icons promoted in the media.
The conversation, facilitated by three adults, was taped last week at Co-op High School for later broadcast on Twenty-first Century Conversations, which runs on local public access television. Click here for a schedule for when the program will air on area stations.
The teens, from Co-op, High School in the Community, West Haven High and Hamden High, over and over distinguished between what they called good role models and bad role models. “Bad” in many cases meant “fake” or “superficial.”
One participant said not all the players on the reality show Jersey Shore are even from New Jersey. Colette Kroop (pictured above on left with Janet Zheng) said her family watched the show one time before taking a trip to “the shore of New Jersey,” but got an on-the-ground “reality” check when they found that many residents are deeply offended by it.
“Conversations” host and producer N’Zinga Shani said she was pleased that the students understood programs like Jersey Shore are edited “to get rid of the boring parts,” as one student put it, and to maximize sex and conflict. Even though they panned the show, they knew it was popular and many of them admitted watching it and similar shows. “People get caught up in the drama,” one girl said.
As for Eminem, these young people were not past kindergarten when Marshall Mather spewed some of his most misogynistic lines. (They were unfamiliar with the word “misogynist” but they understood it meant anti-female.) He took a break from music from 2005 to 2008. Now that he has daughters of his own, the students said, his work is more positive, even sensitive. Simone Ngangi (pictured at top of story) said that Eminem singing a duet with violence survivor Rihanna about domestic violence “shows you can recover from it,” and that was a positive message.
Facilitator Enola Aird asked the teens how many hours a day they interact with all media—television, radio, Internet, phones. The estimates kept rising: four…eight… 12 hours, until someone said, “most of the day,” and everyone agreed.
Then Aird asked how much time they spend with their parents daily, and everybody laughed. The consensus: not much.
Some kids said their parents limit what and how much they could watch shows on TV or the Internet. Kayla Linn (pictured after the taping in the middle with her mom on the left and Shani on the right) said, “I went to camp and my parents said ‘no electronics.’ I didn’t cheat, but by the end I was dying.”
Asked how many would like to cut down on TV, only Vijor McCray (pictured) raised her hand. She first estimated she watches 10 hours a day, then wasn’t sure that was accurate, but said it’s still a lot. “I read when I have to and watch TV when I want to,” she said.
The group consensus was that only about 10 percent of what they watch can be considered “educational.” Shani asked them if they would watch the show they were taping—the one they were in. They thought not. “The media is always showing negative images of young people,” she concluded, and this is an opportunity to watch a group of young teens having a thoughtful conversation about issues of importance to them. “I encourage you to watch public television,” she said. Then they could be their own role models.
Note: “21st Century Conversations” won an award last week for another program it put on this year, “Affordable Health Care—A Human Right in 21st Century USA.” The program took second-place honors in the Northeast Regional Media Alliance Video Competition.
The national media’s quench for ratings has destroyed journalism, Network television stations destroyed local sports by bringing professional games into people’s living rooms, entertainment television and commercials have poisoned the minds of several generations and an active civic life has been disaggregated across the landscape into non-functioning factions via suburban development patterns. We’re going to have to redesign our society around local agriculture, financial practices that follow the restrictions of reality, domestic manufacturing of tangible goods of actual value, local networks of commerce, and habitats of order and complexity in the form of villages, towns and cities. These types of habitats centralize wealth and keep it circulating locally to bring up everyone economically. Traditional habitation patterns also create public land and buildings of character and meaning supported by adequate density where the citizenry can assemble to act out their first amendment rights for the betterment of society. Currently this only manifests itself as a cartoon version of the real thing with angry yelling, and finger pointing because democracy is impossible if diverse people are isolated and segregated from one another. Competitive local news alternatives (like this one) will have to rise up again that inform people of important events and issues happening in our communities. The Celebrity News gossip section in the Register is not a viable model for the future of news, and it is actually contributing the our society’s unhealthy celebrity worshiping and obsession with becoming famous. When Eminem is seen as a role model, that lets use know that we are in serious trouble as a nation.
posted by: Jaylin Santana on November 12, 2010 2:11pm
Overall, I thought it was a great experience, something I could get used to. The conversations could be more exciting, deeper and more interesting to us young kids. I felt that most of what was said would be different from other students in suburban areas. They are affected differently from what we see, live and deal with. Their reality is not ours, and when you can relate to what is being said or rather you’re living it it’s more than media to us. It’s real!
posted by: Jazlyn Marie Ocasio on November 15, 2010 7:10am
I think attending this forum was a phenomenal experience, us kids finally got a chance to say what we were thinking about things that affected us daily. When we began discussing the Jersey Shore, I saw that many other people felt the way I did, that just because it is a “reality” show, does not mean that it is how people really and truly act, the people in shows like that are an insult to others. For example, just because your from Jersey shore, does not mean that you act like the people portrayed in the television show. Those shows are just made to get high ratings and keep people interested, it is all just one big puff piece. When we began talking about Eminem, I could see how some people would disagree with the fact that people believe he is a role model, but I actually think he is a good image now. Don’t get me wrong, Eminem has made some big mistakes in his life and he wasn’t very postitive in the early 2000s when all he rapped about was sex and other inappropriate things, but now that he has children and he has seen the wrong in his life, he has tried to change his life around. I believe that is someone people could look up to now in the sense that he has damatically changed his life for the better, and when people see that, they can change their lives for the better also. As we began discussing how much technology we use each day, it made me realize just how much the media affects us daily. I always have my cell phone with me and if I ever forget it at home, I feel as though I am disconnected from the world. I can honestly say that I spend more time texting on my phone then I do talking to my parents. Many people reading this are probably thinking wow that is so crazy, but if you really think about it that is how this generation is now-a-days, and it is definitely not something to be proud of. Many of the things the media gives the audience is not eduactional and I would say that it is true about 10% of what we watch is educational. I think a way to fix that problem is to watch more public television like 21 Century Conversations, it is a wonderful show, and it touches on some very important issues in the world that affect us daily. I would highly recommend this show to others.
posted by: Sydney White on November 15, 2010 12:33pm
I agree with the discussion these teens shared in this article. I can honestly say that I spend more time watching television and being on the Internet rather than reading an enjoyable book or spending time with my family. The celebrities today are giving a negative view on life and how we are to live. Teens today do not know much about what is going on in the world today and what we can do to make it better. We tend to follow in bad models footsteps whether it is to be cool or rebel against others. I thank the teens that took part in this article for voicing how they felt and uniting many more teenagers to this important topic.
posted by: Euriel Maysonet, Jr on November 15, 2010 12:38pm
i agree that most teens spend more time on the internent than reading a good book or novel. i know for a fact that i spend more time using my phone, on facebook, and with my girlfriend than hanging with my family and reading. rappers these days use provocative language and call females very disrespectful names. i my self treat women with 100% respect. eminem for example uses language that isn’t so appropriate, but what really matters is the whole story by what he says.
posted by: Catherine Przybylowski on November 17, 2010 12:56pm
I thought that the forum was very interesting. I thought the topic was something that a lot of people, especially teens, could relate to. I would participate in something like this again. -Catherine Przybylowski
posted by: Leah Barrett on November 17, 2010 1:06pm
It is really good to see an article such as this where adults are talking to teens, asking them thoughtful questions about issues that affect them on a daily basis. Many parents and teachers have no clue about some of the discussions teens have with each other. I laugh to myself when I hear some of the things many of my friends parents say about their children. Some say, I am so glad my kids are not into those things. As I say, these parents don’t have a clue because they don’t talk to their kids about those very things. This forum was a good thing to do.
posted by: Yolette Bryant on November 18, 2010 12:56am
Dear 21st Century Conversations:
I agree 100 percent with Leah. It is easier for many of us parents and teachers to ignore reality by telling ourselves that our children or students are not involved in certain types of activities, or conversations. By doing so we don’t have to deal with the issues involved. Burying our heads in the sand does not make the problems go away. Pop culture and media have enormous impact on the behavior of teens and even young children. TV watching should be limited for our children and monitored for teens.
Certainly, as parents we should talk to our children about these matters. Some of us just buy whatever our children ask for without thinking or asking what motivated the requests. Some teens’ closets are loaded with discarded items because parents buy on demand and the teens discard the items just as quickly when they go out of fashion, or when they are replaced by a hotter celebrity fashion.
This type of discussion forum is very helpful, but they should also be taking place in our homes. Maybe this article and these comments will encourage some parents to start asking questions and having conversations. Thank you all for doing this forum. Mrs. Bryant
posted by: Catherine DePino on November 18, 2010 7:00pm
I thought that the program was very fun and interesting to participate in. I had many comments to the subjects brought up and being a teen I could relate to the discussions and the other kids. After, I met a lot of the kids and made new friends. We talked about some of the topics to eachother (especially being in separate schools). Being there I learned alot and would definitely would want to do it again. Thank you!
- Catherine DePino
posted by: Kaussar Rahman on November 18, 2010 8:22pm
The program was a big eye opener for all people and especially for teens. I thought this program was really interesting and more discussions such as this should be done more often because it gets you to take a step back and look at the big picture. How are you really living your life? What I found really interesting was how much teens actually watch t.v, I would always here people say ” I only watch t.v for a few hours”, but never heard 10 hours. Its really amazing. I find that scary because soon the world would revolve around t.v.This form, as i said it a strong message to all teens, and I think it should be done more often with topics that are a big issue in society. The form was very open and comfortable. I like discussions and finding out what other people think or their view of a certain topic. I would love to come back and do another discussion; it was very enjoyable event. Everything was great. The way the program ran was perfect; the amount of students was not too much and not too little. It was enough students to get different views on the topic. Also there were a wide variety personalities, and i think that is what made it so unique; the viewers can relate to it and the students can also relate to it. Over all, this form was amazing and a wonderful program to do. I would honestly not change anything. Everything was perfect. Thank you for including me in such a wonderful form and i would love to come back and do another one!
posted by: Randall Horton on November 19, 2010 12:01pm
I can tell you that I was really surprised at how much the media and popular culture influence young people. It all about about controlling images, and we as adults need to be aware of these images.
posted by: Tracy Tutt-Smith on November 24, 2010 5:40pm
Excellent and informative article. Keep up the good work!
OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc thanks professor Randall Horton, University of New Haven, and Enola Aird, OneWorld board member for their excellent facilitation of this critical-thinking forum. We are grateful to Dr. Mayo, Supt. of Schools in NH, Dolores Blocker, the principal at Coop Arts High, and Robert Blocker, the technical director for their support in hosting us for this program.
We are very appreciative of the positive response we got from principals, teachers and parents at HSC, West Haven High and Hamden High, and for the wonderful feedback they sent us. Such feedback is key to the development of future programs; we are deeply appreciative.
It is impossible to capture in this article in the NHI the total dynamics of what transpired over the more that two hours that the 14 students interacted with each other and with the facilitators. Jazlyn Ocasio really summed it up well when in an email to us she said—the forum helped her to realize the tremendous impact that the media has on her behavior. She gave a specific example. Most rewarding is she said now that she realizes what is happening she will respond more consciously, and make decisions more responsibly. Other students said the forum created a strong awareness of issues that never occurred to them before. What more could we ask for?
We at OneWorld firmly believe that being able to think critically about small and large issues is essential to the intellectual development and academic success of all students. While mastering academic subjects is the hallmark of academic success, being able to think critically and make sound decisions are equally important in this the 21st century.
On Dec. 14, Simms Sonet, a senior at West Haven High will co-host a post-election discussion with other seniors from area high schools. Simms will develop the questions he will be addressing to his peers. They will discuss the recent elections and what messages young people got from some of the political advertisements and debates as well as what went on in the national MEDIA. We hope that selected area high schools will send their best representatives to participate in that forum. It will take place on Dec. 14 at North Haven TV studio.
OneWorld 2011, 7th & 8th grade Oratory Competition will start in mid-December. We invite 7th & 8th students from East Haven, Hamden, New Haven, North Haven and West Haven to participate. Guidelines will be going out to the schools on Dec. 13, 2010. We invite all who would like to learn more about OneWorld activities to visit our web site at: http://www.oneworldpi.org Browse the site. For Comcast subscribers in Hamden, New Haven & West Haven “21st Century Conversations” can be seen on CTV Chan. 26, Sundays at 7PM and Wed at 9PM. We are also on AT&T U-Verse Ch. 99. “21st Century Conversations” is also on all major cable systems in CT. We welcome thoughtful comments.
posted by: Colette Kroop on November 26, 2010 3:02pm
I definitely enjoyed participating in One World. I learned that the students were a little less liberal than I am used to, but enjoyable to work with all the same. I think there were so many different viewpoints on all of the issues we talked about and that made it both difficult and interesting. I think the article misrepresented some of what happened at the actual forum. This article outlined what happened in the forum, but focused on the more negative aspects of what was said other than the positives. As jazlyn said a lot of the students didn’t even like eminem, never mind seeing him as a rolemodel, and a good percentage of the kids, have never even seen the TV show jersey shore. One world was an amazing and enlightening experience that allowed us to speak out about what we believed on many subjects, and let us talk to other teenagers our age with differing opinions. All in all, it was a great and memorable experience all around!