Saturday, March 19, 2011


One of my favorite grown-up discoveries is watching a movie or reading a book I lovedwhen I was younger and finding a brand new way to appreciate it. Over Spring Break, I had a chance to watch the musical The Newsies and fall in love all over again....

The Newsies is based on the newsboys strike of 1899 -- the newsboys wanted to gain respect of the newspapers they worked for and wanted lower paper costs. So, inspired by the recent trolly workers' strike, the boys decided to go on strike and gain support for their cause. At that time, the only way to spread information/news in New York was through the papers -- if it wasn't in the papers noone knew about it and it didn't happen. (Here comes my favorite part.) The most powerful men in New York were Pulitzer and Hearst -- owners of the World and the Journal -- who didn't want to spread word of the newsboys strike, and refused to publish it. The newsboys all but gave up, they were too small to fight alone and had no way to spread word and gain support. As all good Disney movies do, The Newsies has a happy ending -- the newsboys found a way to publish their own paper encouraging all child labor to join their cause. Cue big singing/dancing finale.

My recent love of this movie comes fron recognizing how opposite our students have it now -- around the turn of the 20th century, those with money and power determined what was news; now, barely a century later, the average person has the power to share the news. Anyone can have a blog, or social media account. ranks it's online articles by reader popularity (not by publisher opinion). And just a few years ago on twitter, Ashton Kutcher (an Iowa boy) proved that one person can have more followers than the most popular news network in the world.

The possiblities are endless for our students -- they don't need to gain the permission of newspaper publishers to get out information about their cause. It's possible for them to spread the word and enlist help on their own. What a powerful concept. Social media is shaping their generation. Information has never been so readily available, and it has never been so easy for students to publish their own stories. However, (here comes the teacher twist) students need to be and deserve to be taught how to use this power responsibly.

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