This post is pretty straight forward. Questioning is important. As educators, parents and community members we must search for the things which make children, youth and ourselves question the world in which we live.
Why is questioning so important? Here is one of my favourite clips from the queen of questioning, Kath Murdoch.
Over the last year I have opened my classroom to questioning. It has been revolutionary! Instead of being concerned that their questions will be seen as silly or irrelevant my students have shown amazing creativity. Below is a glimpse of our questioning table. I love to read it. It makes me think, laugh and be amazed at the wonder my students possess.
Image provided by author
So what does this have to do with popular culture?
Popular culture makes us question.
Popular culture forces us to examine the popularised accounts of historical events. It can be used as a vehicle to teach social and historical content, as the opinions displayed in it need to be critiqued. The popular versions of historical events such as Disney’s Mulan, Pocahontas or Anastasia tell very different stories from the actual historical events.
Often in the Disney versions of these stories the happiness of the main characters overshadows the dark and depressing stories of those who came through these moments in history worse off.
Popular culture can be utilised as a fascinating way to demonstrate different historical and political perspectives. For more information in critiquing the Disneyfication of history and societies see this article, it also has some good lesson ideas.
Popular culture forces us to question our beliefs about race and stereotypes. As discussed in my previous blog post “Why are all the characters white”. Many popular texts feature main characters who are white. However, there are some popular texts which confuse the race issue, breaking some stereotypes while perpetuating others at the same time. Take for example the popular graphic novel series and TV show The Walking Dead.
This graphic novel was the bestselling graphic novel as of April 2015. It has received praise for portraying a variety of ethnicities with each of these being different to the usual stereotypes. Despite this the issue of race in this text has been hotly discussed. A negative racial occurence in this series is the ongoing pattern that every time one black American joins the cast another gets killed. See the video below for a spoof portrayal of this (warning: video contains some swearing and a graphic scene).
Popular culture forces us to question our identities and the power relationships in our society. As a teacher who holds power in the classroom (at least I think I do) the way popular culture represents me makes me question my role on many different levels. There has not been a year when my students have not asked for me to put the desks into rows, like the classrooms they see in the movies or on the Simpsons.
However, I wonder how many classrooms in a collaborative learning world still place their desks in rows? So often in popular culture the teacher is displayed as the one with all the knowledge who bestows this knowledge upon their pupils, such as seen in the Harry Potter series.
I wonder how many teachers still teach like this in an age of inquiry and “child centred learning”. Conversely, teachers are represented as burnouts or superheros in popular culture, but do we ever stop to consider why? What has perpetuated this view? Representations such as this encourage me question my identity as an educator.
There are so many interesting facets of life portrayed in popular culture that this list could continue endlessly. If we were to more readily question these representations in popular culture imagine what we could gain.
We could understand more about our own views of race, class, politics and society.
I think it is appropriate to end this post with a question. So here is my question to you dear reader,
What is stopping us from questioning popular culture?