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January 31, 2009

Once a fan, always a fan??

Of what am I a fan?
The Simpsons
Interval workouts
Everything bagels
The Bayport Cookery
Anna Karenina

As a fourth grader, or was it third? In any event I was a youngster. I was a fan…no I attempted being a fan….no really, I feigned being a fan of the boy band, New Kids on the Block. It isn’t the embarrassment of age that has me revising the past. Even at the time I knew that my interest in this pop culture phenomenon was not on par with that of my classmates. Whereas in a rare moment of conformity, I had a tape or two (did they make a Christmas album? – according to YouTube they did and thus I had two tapes) and I joined in with the gossip and puppy love crushing. One day Mary and I bought magazines (Teen Beat, I suspect, or at least the like). It was my first venture into pre-teen print media consumption, but the walls of the room Mary shared with her sister indicated they had been on the stuff for a while. We cut out pictures; Mary affixed them to the collage on her side of the room, but my cutouts stayed in a folder with the rest of the magazine. The first sign that I was hiding a secret: I didn’t really care.

Even yesterday afternoon, after having begun this semi-essay, while working out at the gym my training buddy grabbed us magazines for the 1.75 hour long bike ride. She handed me the latest issue of Blender. My thoughts on this publication, which I had never seen before, are many but most immediately I was struck by my complete inability to read beyond a few headlines or captions. Musicians I like, may even be a bit fannish about, were mentioned or featured and to read such mundane 50 word “articles.? Secondary thoughts included: gosh to stay on top of what’s hot a teacher would have to read (or at least look at) this kind of publication; this piece of popular culture is ripe for student deconstruction (is it information, is it an advertisement, how are bands, fans, products, and so on portrayed).

When the band’s appearance at the Minnesota State Fair was announced, to my friends’ squealing glee, I agreed to campaign for my parents to let me go to the show with the other girls. Somehow, the posse of pre-teens made it to the bandstand and I did not. Let me be clear that my folks were neither so strict nor poor. Without informing the gals, I secretly just did not push that hard for a ticket and a ride. Even at that point I knew I could only fake being a fan for so long – even though the late 80s boy band was marketed to just my social circle: middle class, mostly white, urban pre-teen or teenage girls.

A pet theory of mine is of the inherent “whiteness? of boy bands, but without having thoroughly investigated I would not want to irresponsibly hypothesize. Ann Powers’ New York Times review suggests that I am not alone in thinking this. “One bit of sweet revenge accomplished by today's teeny-bop stars is the symbolic displacement of the popular boy. Boy bands like 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys teach girls to favor sensitive choirboy types over the football-playing kind who barely assert themselves on a date until it comes to fumbling in the back of a car.? (Ann Powers, “Three Heartthrob Material Boys Threaten to Burst Bubble Gum,? The New York Times, Monday Late Edition – Final, 6 March 2000). While race does not arise specifically in her brief contextualization for the review of a concert performance by LFO it is implicit. Perhaps this idea could serve as the basis of a learning moment for the right age group: take three boy bands from three different decades (or five year periods, or the same year….) and compare to whom they might/do appeal based on image, music, performance outlets. Now compare boy bands to the girl groups.

Fandom is social. It involves interactions with other and a shared interest. There is status to be earned and maintained. I suspect, or at the least wonder, if my independent and introverted nature is not an ideal match for the efforts required to maintain or the benefits associated with an avid fan role. Has the study of fandom considered personality traits or developmental status in who and how fans exist and interact? Had my grade school teacher assumed that New Kids on the Block was a site for genuine popular interest among her students, would her adult reinforcement of the peer pressure negated the escape I found in my formal education? While it is unlikely that popular culture will in short time become the center of curricular planning, it seems important to acknowledge that while hegemonic, popular culture and fan status does not really speak to all members of a demographic group (Minneapolis, 10-12 year public school female students for example) in the same way even if it might externally appear as such. Education must engage students where they are, but it should always also provide opportunities and experiences beyond what is readily available through the radio, television, or social networking site.

January 19, 2009

Tooning In, 1, 2, 3

Coming soon....all future posts will appear by the Sunday night deadline. Best on MLK Day! Let justice flow.

**For remainder of post with reading response please click on the "continue...." link**

I am not a trained educator, though I am a life long student…or so it seems. I was the kind of student who excelled at the consumption of facts and concepts while strained under the misery of the social aspects of grade school. Even in college and graduate school courses that asked the students to teach each other have proven frustrating in light of my insatiable desire for content delivered by an “expert.? Time and time again my inner voice screams out “but how can we be critical thinkers if we don’t know content?!? And yet, without opportunities to apply, expand upon, engage with, and be personally motivated about new information, who among us (even me!) will actively maintain that to which we have been exposed? It is with an internal battle that I tackled the initial pages of Tooning In (White and Walker, 2008).

Popular Culture for Social Efficacy
What is Social Efficacy
“Social efficacy in education moves beyond traditional practice by suggesting the inclusion of student- and issue-centered approaches…? (2). White and Walker argue to that popular culture is both a logical means for this type of educational approach and is an issue area that is ideally suited to beings subjected to this approach.
Music is not a universal
If ethnomusicology has demonstrated anything, it is that music is not universally understood. That said, popular music is a very widely distributed and consumed means of entertainment and communication.
MTV doesn’t show videos anymore
We have never had cable television in my house. Perhaps the best side effect of this has been my continued perception of MTV as a station of music videos. This matches so well with the 1980s-present cultural analyses that continue to use MTV as the symbol for all that can be associated with 2-5 minute long “filmettes? with audio soundtracks. Rumor has it that the programming of MTV though now is reality shows, dramas, sitcoms, and youth popular culture features but few actual music videos. Anyone with cable subscriptions able to confirm or deny?

Popular Culture in Social Studies

PopCulture as Pedagogy
Using popular culture as a hook. Grab the attention of your audience with something they like, or at least have seen in a setting associated with fun or relaxation, and then use this to introduce topics, themes, and content. Problem is that this approach (extraordinarily abbreviated here) teaches "through media" and not "about media (p. 18) and does not require or enable to students to critically assess the medium or its creators in a broader context of knowledge creation and transmission.
Demystification and Social Understanding in PopCulture
Deconstruction, deconstruction, deconstruction.
Critical and Postmodern Approaches
Feminism, postmodernism, cultural studies.

Critical Media Literacy
Oppositional Relationships and Diversity
Popular culture is riddled with sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of intolerance. In many instances, advertising and entertainment are intermingled. Dominant ideologies, for ill and sometimes good, are reinforced. It is a point of difficulty for those who wish to promote popular culture. Using media literacy and teaching critical thinking skills to students will enable them to wade through the treachery, create empowering moments out of pieces meant to nullify, and to demand - or create even - greater diversity in popular culture.
I would suggest that in addition to stressing critical interpretative skills, that widening the swath of popular culture considered will introduce greater diversity into the equation. By not relying only upon the Top 40 chart, primetime TV, and blockbuster films, and remembering that the is popular culture in other nations that is accessible to American students, there is popular culture in ethnic subgroups, from past times, regionally associated and so on that does appeal to young people, a much more diverse view of popular culture emerges. Perhaps these more varied examples can also assist in the demonstrating how differing dominant ideologies can use the same media to convey very different messages and that critical analysis, appreciation, and yes, consumption, of all media is enhanced by active participation and enjoyment.

End Notes:
For anyone following this blog on a daily basis (yes, you can LOL now), you may have noticed the piecemeal manner in which it has been constructed. I read these chapters way back in December and feeling disinclined to re-read them (in light of amazing things like inaugurations), the post has been a back and forth between skimming and thinking, notes and more completed thoughts. Without a doubt, future posts when composed in closer proximity to text reading will flow more fluidly and it is my hope involve some cool blog things like pictures and youtube clips, not to mention maybe even scholarly references to other literature. Gasp!

January 12, 2009

testing testing

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