I find it interesting that in an age of having access to such a wide range of texts, schools are reluctant to use popular culture material to engage students. Recently my daughter came to me and exclaimed that the text they were reading for English was the first book she has actually enjoyed reading for an assignment. She is currently in Year 10 and an avid reader, who enjoys many different genres. Not all bookworms enjoy English as a subject, but my daughter is one who lives for her English lessons, therefore this revelation shocked me.
The research which I conducted for my analytical essay Popular Culture: alive and kicking in the Australian Curriculum, led me to the conclusion that not only is there a place for popular culture in the Australian Curriculum, but indeed it is already there. So why is it that my teenage daughter has gone through 10 years of schooling without having her interests ignited by a class novel? Of course I’m realistic to acknowledge that she may be exaggerating and that there were some texts that she did enjoy – but still, why aren’t her teachers using youth popular culture texts to teach themes and content? Especially, when at every Year Level Description within the Australian Curriculum, the second sentence states “Students engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment.” Surely this is a catalyst for the inclusion of youth popular culture texts.
So why then the disparity? I believe that many of our teachers (and parents) are still entrenched in the traditional view of education, where teachers taught the best content from high culture and anything from popular culture was seen to be for enjoyment and had no educational worth (Benson & Chick, 2014). Although there have been advancements in education reform, where most teachers acknowledge the need for student engagement and enjoyment, there has not been a big move to incorporate popular culture texts.
After researching for this post, I have realised that there are indeed teachers out there who are using popular culture texts to engage students. Take for instance the use of the dystopian novel, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. With the release of the final movie in a couple of weeks, students are already engaged. For those who have not already read the novel, they have certainly heard of it and because all their friends will be going to see it, they will too. But it is not just because of its popularity that I would argue for its inclusion within the classroom, but for its literary value as well. It is full of figurative language, where students are presented with examples of metaphors, similes, personification, symbolism, idioms and more. There are numerous interviews with the author on YouTube, in which she explains where her inspiration for the books came from. There are many different themes within the books from government control and oppression, to identity, desensitisation, rebellion and revolution, reality television and the spectacle and societal inequality.
However a word of warning: The determining factor of using popular culture texts within the classroom should not solely be on its popularity. Thoughtful and careful planning needs to take place when using any text, to encourage the exploration and analysis needed to achieve the year level standard outlined in the Australian Curriculum.
Benson, P & Chik, A. (2014). Popular Culture, Pedagogy and Teacher Education : International perspectives