Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pop Culture: How essential for teachers?

Part of the reason why I am so clueless and unhip is that back in the day (when I was younger), I was not in touch with the pop culture of my day, and that hasn't improved with the passing years.

I wonder when people have time to watch so much TV, download and listen to so much music, play so many video games, see so many movies. Even if they do these simultaneously as I think many do, it still seems like a lot of hours. Because I rarely have any free time right now, I am baffled as to how I would add in these activities.

Most of what I know about hip-hop, Dr. Dre, Grand Theft Auto III, and The Simpsons, comes from my students' papers about causes and effects of violence or cultural critique. [Note: Cross word puzzles also use Dr. Dre and Brian Eno as clues]

So, the question is - how serious is it to my students that I am not as up on all their interests? Do I even want to know about the bands, actors, films, and games that they play?

I hope that my reluctance is not the snobbery of "high culture" even though I listen to more classical music than to Jackson Browne and James Taylor (well, that dates me!) because that's what I grew up listening to - WGMS - Washington's (DC) Good Music Station - while my mother ironed Dad's work shirts (Ok, I admit they were button-down oxford cloth Brooks Brothers shirts).

When I lament that students lack awareness of Rachel Carson and Silent Spring, or that they cannot identify the source of the quotes from Isaiah in Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech even after I sing the parts from Handel's Messiah to them "Every valley shall be exalted, etc" - am I perpetuating a classist notion of what counts and what does not? Perhaps.

I will be interested in whether anyone comments on this. I'm not sure how to track "reads" on this blog - but the usual commenters are about 3! Not a wide audience. As Eugene, Oregon, poet Dorianne Laux once said, "I am known to literally dozens." I'm not sure my audience is even that wide!

When I was young, I went to see the film Gigi with my parents (I could tell you what dress I wore) and heard Maurice Chevalier sing "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore." While his song focuses mostly on romantic relationships, lately, I agree with him broadly.


Blogger River Wiedle said...

Personally, up until the last year or so, my taste in music was almost fifty years behind the times. It has only been recently that I have associated myself with more modern bands and artists. I have noticed that there is one very large difference between older generations of music and today's; there are far more genres nowadays. The category rock and roll, for example, has been divided up into several dozen individual genres such as experimental rock, alternative metal, emo, death metal, punk rock, and grunge. A list of them can be found here at Although much of the music coming from each of these genres sounds similar to each other (many songs or artists may be considered to be several genres at once), they categorize a broad range of music very well.

6:40 PM  

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