Addendum to CB interview text

Dear Len,

I am sorry to see that my paper “Sabretooth Tigers and Polar Bears”, presented to the AMES Conference in Scotland in 1999, has offended you so much that you feel obliged to produce a 106-page booklet, “Down Cemetery Road”, not only to refute what it says but also to mount a general attack on the educational activity of the BFI over the last 15 years. It is to this last area that I must respond promptly, since it contains a number of serious errors, not only of fact but also of contextual understanding. Whether your assessment of my own work as flimsy and contradictory is just or not, I leave to others to comment, at least for now. I simply do not have the time to give all of your arguments the attention they deserve. For the same reason, this response must take the form of an open letter rather than a formal paper.

Perhaps a useful place to start is this sentence from my AMES conference paper:

“If the media education movement has been of value – and don’t get me wrong, I think it has been of enormous value – then we have to decide what it is that we take from the media education project that we believe to be of value and actually get it into our education systems as a basic entitlement – not an option, not an extra, but something everyone has a right to learn.”

This is part of what you claim “was clearly meant to be a terminally wounding attack” (p13). It encapsulates the crucial principles that have driven the way I have tried to shape educational policy at the BFI: that what really matters in media education is how we establish it as a right for everyone, not only for a few; and that educators’ first responsibility is to learners, not only to their teachers.

I think the fundamental difference between us is that your starting-point tends to be the needs and interests of specialist media teachers, while mine is the needs and interests of learners, whether specialist or not. Another key difference is that you are an academic and I am a bureaucrat: you must be concerned with the constitution of the subject area, marking and defending its boundaries, while I have to deal with what can actually be achieved in the real world of statutory requirements and changing budgets. Both of these are important tasks, but they are potentially in conflict.

Read full letter