Sunday, July 29, 2007

Say It Ain't So

My wife asked me the other day (paraphrased): "Isn't it just sad that Avril Lavigne could be the poet laureate of the current generation?"

Fortunately my wife was not standing in front of me when she said this because, first, I had to clean up the pop from across the room and next had to endure a sting in my nose for a few moments. Then, I had to sit and think: who really is the voice of this generation?

I did an activity with my kids this year (not totally mine, but still a good one) where they created a list of all of the current people who would be included in the history books from the 1990s and 2000s. They came up with the Clintons, the Bushes, Dick Cheney, Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, Stephen Hawking, Angelina Jolie, Condoleeza Rice, J.K. Rowling, Harry Reid, and then local Washington politicians and some top 40 musicians.

We then compared and contrasted this list with the famous names in the history sections of the literature book. What did the kids discover after complaining that history is composed primarily of rich, white people? Their list was comprised primarily of rich, white people. It truly shocked them. They didn't see this result coming.

Granted, they included more actors and musicians than the history sections but the point was made: they view history much like the writers of their textbooks and as Americans have for generations.

Now comes my task: what do I do to help them find the voices of their generation? How do I help them find a diversity of voices while still completing the assigned curriculum for the courses I teach? How do I help them to foster an understanding of what is image and what is substance in contemporary literature?

Over the course of this year, as I learn the new course I'm teaching, I want to identify where I can include contemporary voices or how I can help them discover voices of substance on their own.


Clix said...

Speaking of courses - what all do you teach?

DrPezz said...

Over the past few years I have taught:
- Freshman English (writing basics and world lit.),
- Sophomore English (more writing basics and world lit.),
- Sophomore Honors (in-depth lit. studies and analysis),
- Junior American Lit.,
- Creative Writing (seniors),
- Mythology and Writing (seniors), and
- American Survey, which is my new course (College in the High School).

Typically, I teach the Honors, junior, and senior courses mainly because I am able to relate well with these kids and I'm not afraid to study for each of the specialized nature of the courses. Plus, I enjoy teaching four preps rather than the normal two or three. In this way, I get to teach quite a variety.

It's fun!

The Tour Marm said...

This may be a bit off topic, but for several years I have been watching Charlie Rose who seems to have an eclectic mix of people who are shaping history and popular culture.

Perhaps being exposed to shows like his might be a way to get students to expand their horizons. I remember in the 1960's and '70's some very thoughtful talk shows which resembled Charlie Rose. (But that would require them to forsake an hour of reality Tv to get in touch with reality.)

A solid classical and liberal arts education is another. Certainly my horizons were widened by a Great Books course in high school as well as my Latin.

The New York Times Arts section has always been part of my education as it reflects the pulse and trends of popular culture.

Thank goodness my generation had Paul Simon, Dylan, and the Beatles!

The Tour Marm said...

Thanks for the kind words you left on my TT.

I live in Alexandria. The FDR is the memorial that gives me several areas for teaching moments on tour. (Although he is far from my favorite president.)

Glad to have given you some good ideas. Our young people need to have more foundation and reference points. They are terribly insular and not very curious concerning the world around them. Try getting them out of their cocoons and comfort zones, and there is resistance.

My teaching is on-site and I do everything I can to introduce poetry, prose, song, and concepts not found in their life or curriculum.

I meet the nicest people through Elementary History Teacher at History is Elementary.

Check out my post concerning the use of poetry on tour!

Hope to see you again!

Clix said...

You commented over on my blog - uh - what do you mean by LCDs?

The Tour Marm said...

I came upon this today and thought you might enjoy it:

DrPezz said...

Thank you, Tour Marm, for the article.

I absolutely believe cultural literacy and cultural history to be quite important for today's youth, even it it does not fit into the accepted canon.

The Tour Marm said...

It was hard not to be culturally literate growing up in New York City!
It isprobably harder in Wenatchee, but Seattle is not a bad place, either.

(I used to conduct the DC tours for all three middle schools when I was with another company as well as go through there when I was conducting adult tours through the Canadian Rockies on a Seattle to Seattle route. I miss the fresh Applets and Cotlets, fruit, especially peaches, straight from the groves, and the views.)