Category Archives: Week 8

Adventures with text and beyond: popular culture – the new literacy challenge for English teachers – by Melissa Page. (2012), English Journal, 102(2), 129-133.

PLEASE NOTE THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN WEEK 8 BUT ACQUIRED A NEW DATE WHEN EDITING THE CATEGORY

I have recently been trying to make the intellectual connection between popular culture engagement and school based learning. This is a bit of a challenge as not having a professional connection to the school system, my thoughts are those of a parent and as someone who sees the results of school education in commencing university students. One of the issues that has perplexed me is where does popular culture most comfortably  “sit” within the school curriculum. Melissa Page makes a case for incorporating popular culture experiences into the English curriculum. In addition to the motivational value in referencing a broad range of media texts, often including those students engage with outside the classroom by choice, Page contends students have the opportunity to make links between current popular cultural references and more traditional English class offerings of longer and more complex texts. This idea isn’t particularly new – even in my own long ago school days English teachers would show movie adaptations of studied works in an attempt to make them more accessible. The point I think Page makes well though is the plethora of popular culture links to more traditional texts makes this process a much richer one especially in finding relevance between traditional texts and the modern world. Page also points to the opportunity to critically examine popular cultural experiences giving students valuable skills as they grow into adulthood. This includes the process of questioning the real meaning behind the constant barrage of information that is today’s reality. As a librarian I can only applaud any initiative that makes information users more discerning in their choices. The way students engage with these texts also may be beneficial in providing opportunities to write, discuss and develop their views. I don’t object at all to students engaging with popular culture as appropriate in the context of the school curriculum. I do still have questions over “English” as the forum for this engagement. Page makes the point and I agree that school students need to build the skills to engage with traditional, sometimes long and complex texts. At the tertiary study level, in certain courses such as humanities and law, students need this skill. Perhaps my concern is that much is being asked of the English curriculum. For many students, high school may be the only occasion in their lives where critical thinking and the ability to analyse the value of some of the great literary works that have shaped our current society are formally taught. I would not like to see that opportunity lost or diluted. Maybe the answer is for a greater proportion of school time to be spent in English classes given their expanded responsibility.

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