Through our educat i o n a l career here at Florida Gulf Coast University, we are all required to take a few courses along with the required general education and prerequisite classes before we can walk across the stage at graduation and collect our diploma.
One of these classes is Understanding Visual and Performing Arts (HUM 2510), which is an online class that a majority of the undergraduate student body dreads taking. Instead of requiring undergraduate students to take HUM 2510, students should be required to take News Literacy (MMC 2604). Understanding Visual and Performing Arts does not serve as a useful course to the whole student body, but News Literacy would. During winter break, the star on the popular A&E reality TV show, “Duck Dynasty,” made headlines after an interview with GQ magazine went public. Phil Robertson made controversial comments about his views on homosexuality and African Americans that led to his suspension from the A&E show. Once word spread of Robertson’s interviews — as is the case with most controversies — everyone with a social media account immediately became an expert on the matter.
Robertson said in the GQ interview, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.
“Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right. It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
Robertson added that he believed African Americans were more content under Jim Crow laws, “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people ’— not a word! … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
As I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, I was a bit disturbed by some of the comments this story unleashed. The controversy immediately sparked into a gay-versus- Christians war where one side was claiming that their rights were being infringed upon and another side was claiming the discrimination and damnation of other minority groups.
This battleground that was my newsfeed only added another reason to the argument that News Literacy should be a required course on campus. Let me back up. In my freshman year, I took News Literacy, which is a prerequisite for all journalism majors. The class, which entailed a lecture and a recitation (much like math labs), was the most useful, realworld class I have ever taken. The course description reads: “An examination of journalism’s function, concepts and role in society. Current issues and trends, ethics, how news is weighed and disseminated, the business of journalism and journalism careers. Students become more critical consumers of media.”
Basically, the class teaches you how to read the news — and by news I don’t mean your best friend’s Facebook status or some blog posted by some guy in Arizona. What I mean is news, real factual information that is going to impact you in some way. The class teaches you to actually search for the truth from credible sources, look for biased reporting and not just accept whatever information that has been spoonfed to you.
Back to the Phil Robertson fiasco: My newsfeed was covered in the same story, told an incalculable number of ways. One article from the Right Wing News was titled, “Phil Robertson Suspended from Duck Dynasty After Stating Christian Views on Homosexuality.” The article claimed that A&E violated Robertson’s freedom of speech rights as he was simply sharing his Christian faith in an interview.
Another article from The Human Rights Campaign, titled, “A&E Suspends Duck Dynasty Star Following Racist, Homophobic Rant,” claimed that Robertson’s comments were an attack on African Americans and members of the LGBTQ* community. The exact same story was told two different ways to two opposing groups of people. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, neither of these is a credible source. Look for the facts.
With all that said, why is it a requirement for Florida Gulf Coast University students to take Understanding Visual and Performing Arts (HUM 2510), a class that does not serve as a useful course for every student, when News Literacy (MMC 2604) would better serve the student body?
While the ability to have an understanding and appreciation for the arts could be useful in our lives, I believe it is more important to develop more critical, intelligent and informed news consumers in not only our school, but throughout the country.