SPOILERS AFTER THE CUT: How can we use “Captain America: Winter Soldier” for Information Literacy Instruction?

Disclaimer: I am not trained as a YA librarian and I will readily defer to any who want to help flesh this out. This is just the beginning of an idea so it will need help to become a fully realized instructional opportunity.

My husband and I watched the second film in the Captain America series, The Winter Soldier (aka Cap 2) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) tonight. While I literally gasped at one point and said, “Oh my god, Cap just became the embodiment of the U.S. Constitution!” I don’t think that’s generally the most exciting part of the movie for everyone else.

Do I really hate the rampant sexism and lack of diversity in MCU? Unequivocally, yes. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some parts that could be used in library instruction. Spoilers past the break and how they can be used for Information Literacy instruction particularly with teens.

Here’s the quote from Cap 2 that really got me thinking about how this story could be used:

Dr. Arnim Zola: HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom. What we did not realize was that if you tried to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly. After the war, S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded, and I was recruited. The new HYDRA grew, a beautiful parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D. For 70 years, HYDRA has been secretly feeding crises, reaping war. And when history did not cooperate, history was changed.

Natasha Romanoff: That’s impossible. S.H.I.E.L.D. would’ve stopped you.

Dr. Arnim Zola: Accidents will happen. HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security. Once the purification process is complete, HYDRA’s New World Order will arise. We won, Captain. Your death amounts to the same as your life, a zero sum!

Added to this is the narrative from dana boyd’s book It’s Complicated and a recent article I read on Slate about the anti-smoking “truth” advertising campaign. So the main pieces that I see in this puzzle are:

  1. How do we get teens to care about information literacy?
  2. How do we allow them to have some agency in the choices they make?
  3. How do can we, as librarians, be the best at delivering this instruction?

So, to the first point. The Slate article suggests, based on the book Join the Club, that counter culture and subversion stories are a way to get teens to engage with a subject outside of being lectured by an elder. In this way the HYDRA/S.H.I.E.L.D. storyline becomes useful. This is particularly true when because the fictional storyline can be linked directly to events in real life including the Snowden leaks about the NSA. Libraries are the best at talking about this (see #3). We understand better than most the underlying trap of laws like the PATRIOT Act. Now we have a pop culture framework to work from.

The second point stems from the boyd book. Teens already have an understanding of privacy, social complications and other heavy issues surrounding networked lives. One of the things that boyd favors is ensuring that teens have agency in a world for which the internet is a fact of life rather than a problem state. Treating networked endeavors like distractions or frivolity when they have non-digital consequences for many teens can endanger the instructional effort.

So this is where I’m stuck. I’m not sure what that agency would look like. I don’t think I’m necessarily the right person to work through the full instructional design of this, simply because I don’t work with teens other than those within my family. A full assessment should probably be done considering the audience, purpose of the instruction and the outcomes desired. So, hopefully someone will take this and run with it. As always everything here is creative commons so feel free to take this, remix it, upgrade it and use it as you see fit. Please let me know what refinements you make and how it goes!



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