Pop culture deserves academic recognition

By Isabel Vega and Richard Miller
Opinions Editor and Correspondent

Proposals for exam questions to be based on popular culture has recently initiated a debate on whether or not this topic should hold a place in the education system.

Teachers want to modernize curriculums for contemporary generations (Instagram).

According to a blog published on SecEd, Alan Smithers, director of The Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, there has been great uproar regarding the appearance of questions based on popular culture in exam papers. Smithers said that exam chiefs are competing to make themselves popular among students, but they are “short-changing” pupils because they view popular culture as “shallow and transitory.”

I think people often forget that pop culture is a collection of ideas that permeate the lives of a society and has a significant impact on the way we view the world around us. Pop culture has so much to offer, such as entertainment, sports, news, politics fashion and technology. It is an integral part of who we are as people.

The proposals centered around popular culture in the education system suggest that students will study the delivery, style, purpose and features of “celebrity” language. This will be accomplished by analyzing material from sources like Twitter feeds, newspaper columns, soap operas and music. Studying pop culture reveals the underlying assumptions and power structures, as well as the philosophical and moral constructs of the society, that produces those cultural products. That is exactly why I would argue that scholarly exploration of pop culture is so important. Pop culture impacts everything from fashion to food packaging, and is intimately connected to aspects of education, mass communication and product production. Our beliefs, values and decisions are both revealed and shaped by pop culture.

In “Popular Culture in the Classroom: Teaching and Researching Critical Media Literacy,” authors Alvermann, Moon and Hagood discuss the importance of expanding awareness in adolescents of the underlying social, political and economic messages within popular media. They point out that these messages are massively disregarded, and adolescents’ desires to talk about this topic is disregarded in formal classroom settings.

The importance of pop culture is only increasing with the development of technology — social media has expanded our media consumption, along with the depth and breadth of what pop culture is. Studies surrounding this subject could be compared to archeologists digging up fossils — we are working to better understand the existence of a culture. It is for the same purpose that we read written works of the past to understand issues surrounding gender, race, colonialism and constructions of nationalism. These issues are not trivial — they make up the fabric of what it means to be human.

According to a blog published on SecEd, utilizing popular culture in the education system not only encourages healthy assimilation of diverse cultural influences, which is not only vital for emotional and cognitive development, but also inspires interest by making subjects relevant to students. Studying pop culture teaches us something new by challenging us to critically consider the society we live in.

The study of pop culture helps us to gain empathy by recognizing ourselves in each other. It is worthwhile to study the facets of the media and consider whether they represent a passing trend or a lingering message.

Students share opinions around campus

Should pop culture be a serious area of study? 

Jillian Vlacancich, a sophomore criminology major.
“Yes. It should be a serious area of study. Pop culture influences everyday life.”
Nicole Sena, a sophomore business management major.
“I think it should be because pop culture can show how much we have evolved.”

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