OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me a video that her kid captured during his study hall class at Carmel High School in Indiana. The video was part of a larger TV broadcast created by students who participate in the school’s CHTV program. Yes, Carmel HS has its own TV station, and it’s state of the art. It’s billed as a “100% student-run professional television station.”
It turns out, the video my friend’s son captured on the sly is actually available for public consumption on the station’s YouTube channel. It was promoted on the school’s TV IG page with the following caption:
“Tomorrow our first announcements show is premiering both at school AND on YouTube at 10:30! If you are virtual, our show premieres on our YouTube channel CHTV: Carmel Television. Our top stories are…An emotional package recapping a summer filled with social injustice…”
It was promoted on the school TV station’s Twitter feed too:
— Carmel Television (@CHTV) September 10, 2020
Check out the .35 minute mark through 3.52:
So, that video was shown to EVERY STUDENT in attendance at Carmel HS yesterday during their study hall period. There was no information offered to balance out the narrative in that video.
As a parent of a kid who saw that video in school, I was pissed off. And because I’m in a unique position to be able to give publicity to this story, I decided to write to the assistant principals and principal of Carmel HS to get more information about this. Here’s what I sent to them:
Hi – we received a copy of a video that was apparently shown to all students today at Carmel High School about the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, as well as the shooting of Jacob Blake, the incident in Central Park, and the protests/demonstrations that have taken place since.
“Change is happening” – the video said. Students were encouraged to be part of that change and were directed to visit BlackLivesMatter.com, a site which explicitly promotes “disrupting the nuclear family structure,” and defunding the police. The co-founder of BLM, Patrice Cullors, openly describes herself as a “trained Marxist.”
In the video (which appears to have been created by CHS students), there is NO balance or counterpoint – no information about what the investigations into these police actions have uncovered to date and which are still in progress, and no mention of the fact that BLM has become a highly controversial political movement – one that many reasonable, educated people renounce entirely.
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We would like a statement from CHS about the following:
1. Why was this video shown, and will students be provided any counter-narrative to the BLM messaging?
2. How were teachers instructed to present this information? What context were they instructed to provide to the students? What plans are there to share an alternative view with the students so that they have the ability to think critically about what they saw in the video?
3. What is the school’s protocol for sharing student-developed content from CHTV with the entire student body? What process is in place for approving the content?
As I’m sure you realize, BLM as a political ideology is fraught with controversy, and no doubt there will be many parents who are outraged that this video was shown, particularly if they don’t have any information about the context related to the 3 questions above. We plan to cover this story on our show tomorrow and will be sharing it with our news team as well, and would appreciate any additional information you can offer to either assuage the inevitable concern parents will have about their kids being shown this information, or to confirm that Carmel High School is, in fact, promoting BLM officially.
Thank you –
Miriam Weaver, Chicks on the Right
No one responded before our show began this morning, and so we covered the story without answers to those questions. I forwarded the information to our news director, who contacted the superintendent. According to the school superintendent, our news director told me, “…it’s a rumor that started when students did the first TV project of the year on BLM. He said it was not as neutral as it could have been. But, they are learning. He also says no one is being compelled to visit the website.”
That didn’t really sit well, so I responded to our news director, “Did you watch the vid? It’s on YouTube. They are being actively encouraged to visit the BLM site. Not understanding what he is saying is a rumor? All students saw this video in their study hall class.”
He responded: “The rumor is that visiting the website is being encouraged or compelled by faculty. The video is a student project. They don’t tell the students what to say or not to say on their student channel.”
I hadn’t suggested that it was faculty that was encouraging or compelling kids to visit the BLM website. Clearly, the video was made by the students. However, SOMEONE had to greenlight it for viewing by the entire student body. And I would hope that that somebody would be a faculty member who genuinely wants the journalism students to understand what journalism Actually Is. Because that video definitely wasn’t journalism.
And if they don’t tell students what to say or what not to say – what if someone made a pornographic segment? Or promoted the KKK? Or denied the Holocaust? Or promoted anti-vaxx messaging?
What if the student-run TV station made a pro-Trump segment? I mean, this goes both ways.
Here’s my bottom line. There are kids who might watch that and assume that they’ve just been presented with all the facts. They might not mention seeing the video to their parents. They might assume that because they were compelled to watch that video at school, the BLM website is therefore endorsed or supported by the school. I’m not concerned about my kid, or the kid whose parent alerted me about this in the first place. They have been part of political discussions and particularly discussions about deceptive media practices for a long time now. I’m concerned about the kids who ONLY get information like this from school, and in this instance only get ONE-SIDED information. It’s simply not OK. And I don’t care if this school TV station is “100% student-run.” SOMEONE on faculty (and I’m assuming it’s someone with a background in journalism) ultimately is accountable for providing instruction, guidance, approval, etc. on their projects. And if that faculty member saw that BLM package and thought, “Yeah – that seems neutral and balanced and totally suitable for viewing by the entire student body” then I think most reasonable people can all agree that THIS IS WHY REAL JOURNALISM IS DEAD in this country.
No school is immune to this nonsense, by the way. My kid’s grandparents are already all, “We need to look at private schools!” No. The answer isn’t removing kids from public schools. The answer is teaching our kids to think critically about the information that’s being pushed on them when they’re at school.
Thankfully, my kid’s circle of friends knew immediately that what they were seeing in that video was total propaganda. One of them texted to their chat group, “I thought this was Carmel HS news not CNN.” He knows. They know. And it’s because their parents are engaging them in these conversations. It sucks that we now have to warn our kids that they should be highly suspicious of the news that they see. And apparently, the problem with media starts a lot earlier than I thought. It starts with a HS TV station’s news team now.
So disappointing. Disappointed in whoever is coaching these HS journalism students, disappointed that no one at the school bothered to respond to my email, and disappointed that this story will likely be brushed aside and blown off.
Parents MUST stay engaged. Here’s another example of craziness:
Lowell High School in San Francisco is mandating their students take this anti-racism assessment. Their answers are NOT anonymous, meaning they will be logged and documented somewhere and probably used against the students later. pic.twitter.com/e3VdAJmX4q
— Karlyn Borysenko has run out of effs to give (@DrKarlynB) September 9, 2020