Tuesday, March 29, 2011

music should challenge you, bike riding shouldn't hurt all the time, teachers should tackle pop culture

If any of these things confuse you or strike a chord then I'm sure, at the very least, I would be a great song title writer. Minus the Bear should hire me even though I can't grow a 'great northwest' beard to save my life. You know the beard, it's the one that looks like the only moisture it receives is a thoughtful combination of Portland rain and overpriced craft beer.

The whole bike racing thing bothers me every now and then because it seems to me that if the actual organized, official, licensed racing was taken out of the picture, most of these grown men wouldn't even ride. This isn't to say competition is a bad thing, but it shouldn't be the mess that it is. If I feel like training, I'll ride myself into the ground. If I feel like riding my bike to the Lyons Valley General store for a High Life, I'll do that too. As much as I enjoy competition and racing, any amateur glory that may or may not await me in my future is not nearly as tempting as a good meal and a few drinks with friends.

Over the past few weeks, I've spent some more time substituting in the classroom of Alpine, and I've noticed one interest that seemingly connects and levels the student population as a whole: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Jersey Shore.

Here is where I need to be careful with what I say, because the aim here is not to offend musical or entertainment preferences. The aim is, however, to illustrate how entertainment and music without a point, or goal, is not only pointLESS to our society, but perhaps destructive and stifling.

These kids, specifically the girls, LOVE this stuff. They eat it up with an oversized spoon and come to school singing the lyrics and recapping the stories of the previous night's adventures on the town. They don't even know why. All they know is that the it's in their faces, and that if it is constantly in their faces, then there must be some sort of redeeming value to the content.

The problem with all of this is that there is no passion, no soul, no creativity, and certainly no inspiration behind any of this junk. Ask yourself: What is the point of jersey shore? What is the point of much of the mainstream pop music? Where is the love? Where is the passion? Katy Perry wrote a song about kissing girls. Fine, save for the fact that a song by the same name came out already in 1995. Forget about the fact that Katy's song has nothing to do with the liberation of gays whatsoever, and you have a song that was written by a team of suits, aimed at adolescents, with the sole purpose of making money through the sale of sex. There you have it, a somewhat bitter story of modern day pop culture. Most importantly, none of this music challenges young middle school students who are literally 4 years away from being fully active, voting citizens of this country.

And this relates directly to teaching because it is the role of the teacher, not to block our students from accessing these forms of social media, but to expose students to more things that they would have access to in their everyday lives. Teaching is tough, even as a sub, because a teacher is confronted with all of the modern day issues that young people face, and they are confronted with these problems 5 full school days a week. There is no other profession that is faced with these challenges, as it is the only profession where loving, and sometimes unloving, parents send their kids to be with other adults. Alone in a room. With the (usually) one door locked.

Teachers are alone in a room with students, and these students want, as do their parents and guardians, to be taught, nurtured, and developed into thoughtful citizens. As lofty a goal as any, but a good question to be asked here might be: How does modern middle school curriculum tackle the challenge of popular culture misleading our students?

Our students (some, most, you decide) look up to the cast of jersey shore. Shouldn't they be told that they, in fact, look down on them?

I don't know.

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