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Abstract

This paper examines the ways that political contexts affect the perceptions and practices of social studies preservice teachers (SSPSTs) being prepared in a conservative “Red State” compared to those being prepared in a liberal “Blue State.” The researchers analyzed how controversial the SSPSTs in each context considered the practice of teaching media literacy by exploring their beliefs about media literacy using a survey, analyzing practices related to media literacy through a targeted lesson plan assignment, and facilitating focus groups to member check emerging themes. Survey data indicated that both groups believed teaching media literacy skills was essential, but the assignment revealed that Red State SSPSTs were far more likely than Blue State SSPSTs to create lesson plans at the lowest level of media literacy integration. In the focus-group interviews, this discrepancy was explained as Red state SSPSTs considered media literacy to be controversial at rates beyond their Blue State peers. The study’s implications suggest that methods instructors who prepare SSPSTs need to be aware that community context influences the way SSPSTs integrate anything that can be deemed political into the classroom, including media literacy skills, and provide targeted content examples to help SSPSTs gain confidence for teaching these skills.

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