YOUTH, MEDIA, & POP CULTURE
Humour is a provocation. Laughter is a way of recognizing yourself. Comedy is a social corrective, and a key to its success is that it favours the underdog and dismantles those in power. Throughout history one of the primary goals of comedy has been to illuminate the ways in which we live in the world politically and to critique our legislature and laws. I guess this explains why I would stay up to watch Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Jon Stewart had sparked my interest in politics and has done ever since.
Jon Stewart has become an important satirical voice and social commenter in an age that marked the end of the dominance of the old TV news networks. He is a trusted voice for many young people who have become disillusioned with traditional news formats and who instead want personally relevant, critically entertaining news commentary. But Stewart hasn’t just made us laugh, he’s encouraged us to think critically about how news is served to us – to unpack it and question it, rather than simply consuming it as the absolute truth. He also makes us feel as if he’s on our side by passionately articulating our political concerns in a seemingly eloquent and hilarious manner. This weeks article did a good job in articulating why laughter serves importance in politics. She argues that taking laughter and humour seriously and examining their complex relations with power can increase our understanding of structures of inequalities and how they are produced, reproduced and maintained.
Saara Särmä. “Collage: An Art-inspired Methodology for Studying Laughter in World Politics.” Caso and Hamilton, Eds. pp. 110-119.
Growing up I was never a fan of video games, my brothers on the other hand would play for hours on end. Being exposed to various topics in my Youth, Media and Popular Culture class, I challenged myself to explore playing video games. Prior to setting out on this challenge, I ensured completed reading the article by Kurt Squire. Squire stated in the article that "Video games are much more than just simulations; they are world's that provide designed experiences” (pg. 111), which is what I was hoping to experience playing a video game.
I went to the video game store and picked up Halo, Rise of Nations, and Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. As I confronted the games I was amazed. It was hard, long, and complex. I failed many times and had to engage in a virtual research project via the Internet to learn some of things I needed to know, and even asked my 12 year old brother to help me. All ways of learning and thinking didn’t work. I felt myself using learning muscles that hadn’t had this much of a workout since my undergraduate days. As I struggled, I thought, young people pay lots of money to engage in these games, activities that are hard, long, and complex. As an educator, I realized that this was just the problem our schools face: How do you get someone to learn something long, hard, and complex and yet enjoy it. At a deeper level, however, challenge and learning are a large part of what makes good video games motivating and entertaining, which is why humans actually enjoy learning.
No deep learning takes place unless learners make an extended commitment of self for the long haul. Good video games capture players through identity. Players either inherit a strongly formed and appealing character or they get to build a character from the ground up, which I experienced in the games I purchased. I also felt that as a player I was a producer and not just a consumer. Players help “write” the worlds they live in—in school, they should help “write” the domain and the curriculum they study.
SQUIRE, K. (2008). CHAPTER SEVEN: Critical Education in an Interactive Age. Counterpoints, 338, 105-123. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.uproxy.library.dc-uoit.ca/stable/42979224
Having been raised in Russia before moving to Canada, I was never exposed to issues related to sexuality and sexual orientation. And even after going through formal education in Canada, it was never a topic that was prominent in the classroom so it became a matter that I was never exposed to. Although some academics are critical of using popular culture in discussing certain issues, it was through various TV shows and movies that I was able to understand the issues surrounding sexuality and sexual orientation. I really enjoyed this week’s article by Happel-Parkins and Esposito's 2015 article, "Using popular culture texts in the classroom to interrogate issues of gender transgression related bullying" because it highlighted the importance of teaching pre-service teachers to support students victimised by homophobic bullying.
Although I have not watched Ugly Betty, Modern Family is another prominent TV show that deals with Cam and Mitch, a gay couple living together with an adopted daughter. They weren’t married when the series began—Proposition 8 in their native California forbade them to, and they tied the knot once it was overturned. It was interesting to note that in this particular show, Cam and Mitch, have been tame in contrast to the straight couples they hang out with, they rarely touch, never talk about sex, and make a big deal over kissing in public.
Of course television and film have always spotlighted homosexuality many of these programs perpetuating stereotypes however the fact remains that depiction of homosexuality and transgendered issues and individuals helped encourage TV networks to pursue shows and movies, and today there’s unprecedented diversity in representation of sexuality on television, as shown in programs like Empire and Orange Is the New Black.
THE MAKER MOVEMENT IN SCHOOLS
I was fascinated with the notion of making at school. Although it seems as though it is more dominant in the science and tech field, it can be applied to other situations as per my personal experience. The, 7 Things You Should Know About Makerspace, article does a good job of introducing makerspaces especially for educators like myself that do not necessarily see how it can be used in non-tech fields such as the social sciences.
I grew up with hip-hop music as a backdrop to my life. It was on the radio or on cassette at home, in the car, and even on the street blaring through my headphones. And yet, there was no recognition of hip-hop in the classroom. I found myself taking on a dual identity: I was hip-hop outside the classroom and student inside it. There was no space for both at once.
Petchauer (2015), in his article, Starting With Style: Toward a Second Wave of Hip-Hop Education Research and Practice, conducted an interesting approach in the analysis of hip-hop and the role of this aesthetic in the classroom. Social identities matter for both the teacher and the student. We all have a worldview that is informed by experiences within our various communities. Therefore, it is not helpful to ignore this in the classroom, and while Hip-Hop culture can offer complex and nuanced understandings of identity, educators should also be aware of the social power dynamics historically associated with their identities.
It’s important that more academic studies involving qualitative and quantitative studies be pursued in the field of hip-hop pedagogy. It would also mean training and workshops for teachers in order to ensure success of implementing hip-hop in the classroom.
Petchauer, E. (2015). Starting with style: toward a second wave of hip-hop education research and practice. Urban Education, 50(1), 78-105
The assigned reading for this week, Imperial Imaginaries: Employing Science Fiction to Talk About Geopolitics (Saunders, 2015) gave new insights by addressing societal and cultural issues through the use of science fiction. From my own personal and professional experience, the use of films and TV series in IR does have some clear advantages. Having a strong interest in IR when I was in high school and later pursuing political science during my undergraduate years, certain concepts in IR were complicated or too mundane to grasp. I remember in my second year American Politics class, my professor referenced Star Trek to explain the concept of balance of power and structural realism during the Cold War era, and in that instance, I felt like I had an “Aha” moment and was able to engage in the conversation.
It is widely accepted as scientific knowledge that the human memory stores information in both a visual and an oral form and that a combination of both cognitive capacities helps people access, learn and then remember information (Kuzma and Haney, 2001). Students retain 10% of what they read, but 50% of what they see and hear (Powner and Allendoerfer, 2008). As a young student with interest in Star Trek sitting in classroom trying to grasp the concepts of the Cold War era, reference to Sci-Fi triggered a point of interest to contribute to the conversation. However, I think that from my professional experience, there needs to be a balance in how often film and TV series are used to teach IR. No matter how ‘perfectly’ a documentary is directed or how popularly rated it is all documentaries are inherently subjective. Moreover, they over simplify and condense history. It’s also important to note that sometimes referencing what may seem to be very popular, may not necessarily be familiar to everyone. I can relate to this because I have attended classes where the instructor references Breaking Bad and I have no idea what is going on and unable to relate to the conversation because I haven’t seen the show.
Kuzma, Lynn M. and Patrick J. Haney (2001) ‘And … Action! Using Film to Learn about Foreign Policy’, International Studies Perspectives 2 (1): 33–5
Powner, Leanne C. and Michelle Allendoerfer (2008) ‘Evaluating Hypotheses about Active Learning’, International Studies Perspectives 9 (1): 75–89
Identity. An important concept that stood out to me as discussed by Funes (2008) in her article for this week. She labeled advertisements acting as an authoritarian discourse. Marketers use advertising to manipulate adolescents, encouraging teens to use materialistic values to define who they are and aren't. In doing that, marketers distort the organic process of developing an identity by hooking self-value to brands. Identity-oriented branding also encourages disapproval of anything different, be it a different generation, different cultural group or different school clique. In this regard, I agree with Funes (2008) point that there is a gap between the traditional education system and the consumer-influenced student of today.
But this made me think further. What role does the education system play in how successful advertisements have been in influencing consumerism amongst children? This led me to revisit the notion of the hidden curriculum and how encouraging social obedience has molded the student to be easily influenced by what they see and what they hear. Is schools part of the hyper-consumer problem? In my opinion, consumerism has influenced the education system, notably higher education. How much money you earn from your degree is far more important than whatever knowledge you learned.
Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
Funes, V. (2008). Mirror images: Popular culture and education,Counterpoints, p. 159-177
My name is Farishta Amiri and I am an M.Ed student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. My interests include technology, curriculum design, adult education and development.