by Marsha Rakestraw

When I worked as a school librarian helping students gain research skills, I was surprised at how many students were startled to discover that just because something is in a book (or online), it doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

Many of us are taught to defer to “authority,” whether that’s a person or a resource. Unless what we’re told differs greatly from our belief system, we’re often likely to take the person or book or whatever at its word without bringing our critical thinking and accurate information-seeking skills to bear, or without considering the language used or how the issue is framed.

Especially in this age of near-instant digital media, in which a growing number of us turn to TED-like talks, documentaries, animated films, and infographics to learn about relevant issues, it’s vital that we bring a critical eye and open mind to our media consumption.

As citizens, humane educators, and changemakers we can use questions like these to help us think more deeply and critically about the documentaries and other videos we see:

  • What is the purpose/agenda of the filmmaker? Of those featured in the film?
  • Who/what benefits from the message of the film? Who/what might it harm?
  • What important voices and perspectives might be missing from the film?
  • How do I know whether the information presented is accurate? Where can I go to find out more?
  • Were opinions presented as facts? How so?
  • Did I ever feel manipulated? If so, how?
  • Was there bias? If so, what kind(s)? Was it hidden or obvious?
  • Is there a solutionary aspect to the film? If so, how I can take positive, meaningful action? How can I encourage others to take action?
  • For what age group(s) is this film appropriate? As a humane educator/changemaker, would I use this film in educating/inspiring others? How might I do so?


Image via Witness/Flickr