Monday, 26 October 2015

Week 7: Social Justice and Hip Hop

 Petchauer’s article (2015) is a revisit of a previous study undertaken in 2009. This “part essay, part narrative review” (p.79) considers hip hop education as it connects to and figures in several areas or disciplines of education. Petchauer (2015) investigates how hip hop education, pedagogy and research impacts urban education.

So, before the end of the second page, I found myself looking up three terms. ‘Emic’, ‘etic’ and ‘heuristics’ – although I think I’ve seen this third term previously. Emic is related to, or involves the analysis of cultural phenomena from the perspective of one who participates in the culture being studied, while etic is from the perspective of an outside observer ( .  Heuristics is involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery or problem solving through experimental and trial-and-error methods. (

Petchauer (2015) connects hiphop threads from outside education (visually, sonically, linguistically and kinesthetically, through dance) with an eye to improving education. The author explains sampling, layering, flow and ruptures as aesthetic forms and credits Rose (1994) as the anchor for this analysis. I found the diagram in Figure 1 on page 83 an excellent visual representation of layers, flow and ruptures.

Petchauer (2015) poses several questions that provoke thought and exploration within and because of hip-hop. These questions focus on how to take the elements of hiphop and incorporate them into education. An interesting question posed is: “If these aesthetics make up a style nobody can deal with, how might we imagine a pedagogy nobody can deal with?” (p.89)

Petchauer (2015) goes on to explain how hip hop aesthetics are realized in two real-life contexts – one, a school in St. Paul, Minnesota (HSRA) and the other, a “critical education initiative in Philadelphia called Stop Coonin’ Movement [SCM]” (p. 89). The article goes on to explain how sampling, layering and ruptures exist as a new pedagogy within these two educational institutions.

This article was interesting in the questions asked and answered. It was very intense and complex, using vocabulary and context-specific examples relating to hip-hop. I am not a fan of hip-hop music as I find it too intense and angry and abrasive for me. As such, I am not overly familiar with the culture within or artists who perform it. Due to study within this M.Ed and exposure to hip-hop and rap as a literacy tool, I have come to appreciate its richness and effectiveness in delivering a message and to be used as a tool/medium of speech and thought. This article furthered my consideration of hip-hop to reach into pedagogical research in order to establish a new space of educational practice.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Week 6: Teaching Toward the 24th Century - Star Trek as Social Curriculum

 What an interesting read this week! I was amazed at the number of “Trekker” teachers that the author was able to interview and shadow. Also surprising is the level and depth of commitment (obsession?) of these people.

Anijar (2003) claims: “Klingon is ostensibly the fastest growing language on the planet.” (p. 128) And I wonder if this is true? I suppose it could be, given that it is relatively new, and is based in a globally popular movie. I was curious and searched the app, Duolingo , and guess what? Klingon is expected to be available to learn, for free, on November 26, 2017! The implications of this are pretty incredible. I was quite taken by Anjiar’s (2003) anecdote about the lost traveler in Japan who was able to get directions from someone who also spoke Klingon

At the same time that Klingon was finding its way into universities,
schools, camps, and your home, several language issues emerged in the
United States that were not met with the same enthusiastic embrace as
Klingon. It does seem somewhat peculiar that languages spoken by real
people, in real situations, living real lives are trivialized and disparaged,
whereas Klingon does not engender any protest. (Anijar, 2003. p.139)

A very interesting observation! Is this because “Klingon” is based in science Fiction and is therefore, non-threatening in terms of a communal take over? Perhaps people don’t take the speaking of Klingon seriously. Similarly, Pig Latin is not taken seriously.  In my younger days, when we spoke Pig Latin, it was a way to talk about and around the adults in our lives, without them having a clue as to what we were saying. Unfortunately for me, my parents were very young (only 17 years older than I) and hip and they actually knew Pig Latin better than I or any of my friends did (much to my chagrin!!). Nevertheless – DID YOU KNOW??? That by November, 2017, one can learn Klingon through the APP, Duolingo? How cool is THAT?

So, to wrap this up – I read both chapters – all about Star Trek as social curriculum and the wonderful ideas that teachers used from the movies or series in order to incorporate social justice and community etc. And I thought it was brilliant. And then today, I asked the two grade 9 classes in which I was guest teaching … “Do you guys know Star Trek?” And, surprisingly, in the one class, of 15 students,  not one person knew! One girl said: “Is that Luke Skywalker and stuff?” Ummm – no. In the other class, of 16 students, 7 students thought they knew what it was. There was that vagueness – like maybe their parents had spoken about it before – kind of like milkmen and doctor housecalls! And then I realized that this book was written in 2003 – 12 years ago – so perhaps Star Trek isn’t as enduring as one might have originally thought. It’s more about using popular culture to make connections and to globalizing students’ views by utilizing what is grabbing their attention, no matter the genre!

Karen Anijar. Teaching Toward the 24th Century: Star Trek as Social Curriculum (Pedagogy and Popular Culture). New York: Falmer Press, 2003

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Week 5: Fan Culture

 The Harry Potter Alliance? Zombie Apocalypse? The Walking Dead #1: Special Edition? WOW! The readings this week were, at first glance, kind of odd, kind of weird. Or was that just my old age talking? When I told my kids, they were thrilled, envious and…superciliously pitying!

Henry Jenkins’ chapter, “Fan Activism as Participatory Politics :The Case Of the Harry Potter Alliance (2014), put a brilliant perspective on collaboration and activism based on fiction and fandom. On the one hand, it makes sense that people who believe intensely in something, would gravitate towards one another in many facets of life. The idiom “Birds of a feather, flock together” comes to mind. Jenkins states: “The HPA embraces a politics of “cultural acupuncture,” mapping fictional content worlds onto real-world concerns” (Jenkins, 2014, p. 65). And this stretches my sensibilities just a bit. As I read the chapter, I tried to put myself into this space. Would I align myself with others who are fans of my favourite shows/movies? #GreysAnatomy, #MadamSecretary, (retro)#WestWing, #HungerGames, in order to raise funds for Syria; defeat the Harper government? I really don’t think so. So, I wondered, as I read …what’s the ‘draw’?  I would think it is because the HPA marries the Harry Potter content world with real life events in order for people to understand what is going on and how global events impact us all. And, (this is a judgment on my part) maybe these people aren’t solidly connected with people in their real time lives, who would provide them with a face-to-face forum in which to exchange ideas, politics, and to problem solve. Alternatively, maybe they don’t like the people with whom they’re connected in their real-time lives. Either way – it’s a powerful statement on the power of the fictional worlds created by authors such as J.K.Rowling that fans would activate based on a shared love of said world and its characters.

Watching the “Zombie Apocalypse” was quite an entertainment. I honestly thought that at any moment, the people in the documentary – the ‘Preppers’ were going to take a bow and that we would find out that this was an acting class and they were students doing a culminating activity! I was quite surprised at the statement that there is ‘scientific proof’ that there is a possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Phrases that had my eyebrows raising: “Inside the Zombie Mind”; “Zombie-proof the house”. The woman, Patti Heffernan, is so convinced of the imminence of a zombie attack, that she chose her community and house location accordingly. I also gave this woman Understatement of the Year Award: “When a being turns and growls at someone who has just shot them and goes back to eating, ummm, that’s a red flag for me…” (5:18 – 5:25). And I found it quite chilling when she says: “Even my daughter knows we only shoot zombies in the head” (8:37). The time and energy that the Preppers put into this survival preparation was very revelatory. I had no idea. No wonder gun laws don’t pass in the US! And how about the high school English teacher who suggests going off the beaten path to stock up on nutrition if one is caught unprepared? His idea – go to the pet food store and buy cat food! And I was very relieved to find out that there is an organization one can join called the Anti-Zombie militia.

So – here was my thought after the documentary. What if these Preppers got together and collaborated and pooled their resources to help the homeless, hungry and displaced people in their own country? Or reached out to help Syrian refugees? Like those in the HPA, they could connect with people who are like-minded, committed and driven to help out real people in real distress.

Henry Jenkins. “Fan Activism as Participatory Politics: The Case of the Harry Potter Alliance.” DIY Citizenship. Eds. Matt Ratto and Megan Boler. Cambridge: MIT, 2015. pp. 65-73.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Week 4: Imperial Imaginaries: Employing Science Fiction to Talk about Geopolitics

 In his piece, Saunders outlines how science fiction (sf) can be used in the classroom in order to teach international relations and geopolitics by facilitating students’ connections between real life and the realm of science fiction. He describes films, novels and television shows that outline one society attempting to achieve dominion over another, and explains that sf employs allegory to promote an understanding of real-world global conflicts and/or situations.

I found the fluency of Saunders’ (2015) writing a bit difficult. His word choice and phrasing made for stilted reading and I had to look up a number of words. For example: “autarky” (p. 151) – which means self-sufficiency or economic independence; “auto-didactic” (p. 153) – self-taught. On the other hand, I like words and learning new ones, so that would be the benefit, despite the staccato flow of the reading.

“Science fiction is the genre of the unknown, but imaginable, and as a result contemplates possible futures” (Gunn, 2014, p. 34 as cited by Saunders, 2015, p. 151). Brilliant line! This entire paragraph on page 151 of the chapter frames the legitimacy of the genre of science fiction in the classroom.  Saunders (2015) explains (through referencing) how science fiction mediates real social dilemma, and how it critiques the actions and ideologies (or lack thereof) of current national and international leaders. And so, proposing why sf can be used for teaching connections – a tenet of all curriculum documents currently in Ontario. 

I know that Saunders (2015) is speaking primarily to higher education courses in International Relations, but I could transfer what he was saying to the context of the secondary school classes with which I work. In fact, reading about how he uses film (Star Wars) and television series (Star Trek) (p;. 153, 154) to help students understand imperial geopolitics has made me think about how secondary teachers use film in their classes. Many parents get quite upset when they find out their kids are ‘watching another movie’ and often students will sign out, particularly on a Friday afternoon, telling their parents “We’re just watching a movie…”  Like anything, this medium can be misused – but, if teachers follow the model and pedagogy that Saunders describes, then film can be a very effective tool. Saunders (2015) cites Weber (2001, p. 282): “Not only do I find that the current generation of eighteen-to-twenty-year olds are better readers and writers of visual images than I am, I also find that they understand how to approach these media critically”.

This week’s reading has given me something to think about and consideration for a possible topic for the essay for this course. I also might not be quite as critical of my colleagues who seem to show movies 4 days out of 5 – without investigating how they (the movies) are helping students connect to the curriculum.

Saunders, R. A. (2015) Imperial imaginaries: employing science fiction to talk about geopolitics. Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, and Pedagogies. 149-159