Class Games

In January, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center released a report on young children’s media diets. The survey of more than 1,500 parents of children ages 2-10 asked a bevy of questions about educational media use. Much of the ensuing news coverage focused on the sheer volume of media use, and how little of it overall parents deemed helpful, especially when it came to science and math content.

But I found something else to be more interesting: the study shows a serious class divide on educational media use. That made me wonder, could it be that high-income parents are letting their presumptions about “screens” cloud their judgment?

If we can get beyond the false assumptions, parents might be able to demand more, and better, educational media. Right now for media developers, the incentives are elsewhere, Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, told Games Industry International.

“Report Finds Class Divide in Educational Media Use,” Barbara Ray

I had a great economic professor at the University of Texas at Austin, in the 1980’s, named Harry Cleaver. Dr. Cleaver was a Marxist economist who had somehow survived the conservative purges of the 1970’s. Dr. Cleaver saw the impact of class and the class struggle everywhere he looked. Once you see the way class shapes American culture and the world, you can never un-see it.

Yet academic researchers in particular seem perpetually surprised by the pervasive impact of class, as if they suddenly realized that capitalism is a class-based system. Why wouldn’t class shape media use? It shapes everything else. I suspect that this surprise goes back to the fact that academic economics has been so conservative for so long. If no one points it out, you don’t see it.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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