The "president’s test" for appropriate pictures

I've been using this example for the last week and told it to someone on Thursday — by Thursday night, they used the example (w/out giving credit) so I thought I'd go ahead and share it just to know or show that my students and I came up with this one.

My students and I were struggling with how to talk about appropriate pictures and how to determine what was appropriate. As we wrestled with the fact that two kids on one project had been kidding around and posted a photo of one girl playfully kissing another on the cheek (which girls do a lot by the way in these “photobooth shots) — we came up with the president's test.

It goes like this:

“If you were running for president in 30 years, what would the media say about this photo?”

If the media could speak no ill of the photo, it is “appropriate” — go ahead w/ it. But if the media could make something up or misrepresent it, it shouldn't go in ANY space ANY where. Period.

I teach my students screen shots just so they understand how easy it is to copy any photo in any place.

I'm adding the Digiteen project as one of my favorite projects — we're all getting so much out of it. (See our ning and Wiki — we're doing it with a class in Qatar and one in Austria.)

With digiteen, we're requiring the students to transfer their online learning into an offline “action project” where they must share with someone in their face to face world what they're doing — they have some great action projects – my students are going to present to the elementary and middle schools 3 different 20 minute sessions.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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sr_mary May 3, 2008 - 10:39 pm

Great test … but they also need to realize any picture can be ALTERED in any way, easily. No picture on the net is completely ‘safe.’

Anonymous May 3, 2008 - 10:42 pm

Hi Coolcat,

I’ve been working in media for ten years. I know how it works.

I think the idea of defining appropriateness according to media standards – and the standards of your current presidential system – deeply problematic – unless of course, you’re a neo conservative Christian. Then it works out very well.

There are two big issues: 1) the issues of global corporate media ownership and 2) bias in Big Media. Rupert Murdoch owns the lions share of Big Media globally. His politics are well known: far right conservative. He’s also well known for his “talking points” memos to editors and writers working for his media companies. There’s quite a lot of material on record about all of this – it’s well documented.

Relevant media pedagogy questions the media (its biases and values as projected by its owners). This is about critical inquir.

The current corporate media reflects the interests and politics of its shareholders. This media is not a reflection of citizens priorities. For this reason, the idea of looking for their approval is absurd – particularly in relation to social diversity – which is not reflected in the corporate media.

Furthermore the presidential example. Right now, in the US, the idea of a presidential candidate who is not Christian is unthinkable. In order to speak to the Christian right, presidential hopefuls of all stripes have to cater to those values.

The image of two girls kissing – though innocuous – becomes offensive to Christian conservatives when associated with LGBTQ politics. And let’s be frank here about the relationship between neo conservative Christians and homophobia and “appropriateness.” Note, I say neo con christians because a great many Christians do support the rights of LGBTQ people – their identity and their communities.

Before we look to the corporate media to define our values, let’s look at the values that define the corporate media. And let’s talk about what specific media we’re looking to for their “values”.

So my question to you is this: What specific media are you referring to when you refer to the media?

Gilbert Halcrow May 4, 2008 - 6:19 am

Great idea. Thank Vicki and students – I might have to change ‘President’ for CEO of HK, but the point will still be the same. I have one senior student I know who is bound to challenge that the electorates sensibilities will be different in 30 yr.s time -but I think the default sensibilities of the present projected into the future work well for images being posted now – One could also suggest that the attitudes maybe even more conservative – perhaps all contributors to ‘Spring break’ blogs and GGW will be excluded from democracy because of the misdemeanours of their past. Great work cheers


MariaD May 4, 2008 - 11:24 am

I copied down your “president’s test”. It’s great, because it uses a well-known human role to represent a huge, complex set of requirements. In one phrase, it summarizes a whole lot of ideas!

You have a typo in “digiteen” link, but I figured it out. I checked out a random page there, which happened to be the page on digital commerce For some reason, after the overview, it talked a lot about the details of pornography and also all advice under “guidelines” was on how to prevent kids from participating in digital commerce, pretty much. For example:
“There are many ways to prevent teenagers from getting into the digital commerce world. Parents could stop teens by watching what kids do frequently. Most sites will not let teens buy or sell things over the internet unless they are 18.” It just feels weird.

Brian May 4, 2008 - 8:54 am

I appreciate and applaud the intent of this new media literacy discussion, it’s always worthwhile to consider how actions might be perceived in unexpected contexts in a possibly distant future.

But really, is there any less humane or irrational method of judging behavior than what is applied by the media to individuals during a Presidential campaign? You might as well ask, “what might Caligula think?”

I believe your question invests the likes of Wolf Blitzer with far more credibility than he and his peers deserve. Such unearned respect only encourages them, and perpetuates their inane and corrupt brand of journalism.

Kim T May 4, 2008 - 4:54 pm

Thank you for this analogy! I was on the live chat that night at Princeton University and I really feel strongly that our kids do not think out the consequences of their internet postings. I will be linking this to our project site as an informational piece. It is in the news again today with the ASU cheerleaders.

Educational Technology 4 Web2.0

John Peters May 5, 2008 - 1:29 am


I just love it, The President’s Test, what images it evokes. I promise that if I ever use it, I will give you the credit.

Great job with the Cover it Live session last Thursday night, if I remember correct. I hope to be able to use that in my classroom sometime in the future.


Vicki A. Davis May 5, 2008 - 2:00 pm

@sr_mary – YES, and we teach that. However, if they can at least control what they are sharing and realize that it can be taken AND altered in any way, then we’re at least going somewhere.

@anonymous – On this project, we have a class in Austria, Qatar and the US — we frame it in a way that the students in their area can understand.

To lump all “offense” against “neo conservative Christians” is just not accurate. Actually, I’ve found that the offense threshold for schools in the Middle East to be much stricter than those in my own albeit-Christian classroom. Many cultures would find PUBLIC displays of affection no matter the gender to be offensive. Period.

The point is in giving students a way to consider and evaluate photographs — they are all familiar with photos being taken out of context by American media and my class is in America — now, the classes in Austria and Qatar discuss it differently (the American presidential election is not something that they would understand nor would it be appropriate as you have said) and have a different “test” for helping students think twice about what to post intentionally.

In terms of what media — “the media” is a generalized term — almost like saying “what would someone who didn’t like you say about it” – they understand it. What would you suggest?

@gilbert – I would suggest that this question is not “the perfect” litmus test but is certainly one to start the conversations that we need to have about appropriate photographs.

@miriad – I’ll check and fix the link, thank you.

@kimt – ASU cheerleaders? I’ll have to check the news for that one — I don’t really like to focus on this type of thing, it grieves me so.

@john – Thanks – the cover it live was a great tool and I will be using it — maybe not this year but definitely next!

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