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At present our educational pattern is such that it reflects a modernist epistemological focus that offers certainty and definition. It is generally believed and a matter of general practice too, that all knowledge is to be transmitted as a package of nice and neat categories of information ready for the youth to grasp and memorize. Generally educators are more concerned with the content they have to teach rather than thinking about the learner. There is more concern over what to teach rather then how and why. When it comes to popular culture, educator's common reaction is to disregard it as hegemonic, corporate dominated and bad for our kids. Tooning In explores the possibility of countering this common perception by suggesting possibilities of incorporating popular culture in teaching for social efficacy. The book offers a fresh approach towards our education. We are living in an era where dry allotment of facts and dates in the name of history and geography should be rejected. Popular culture is should be used in the education as it has tremendous opportunities for making learning more interesting and meaningful. The key is to engaging our youth in active learning through the popular cultural icons. For instance, the youth should not passively accept media but they should be challenged to think for themselves. More active and meaningful learning is possible if students are asked to think, construct and solve rather than memorize.
The book rejoices the idea that it is not that facts change but our appreciation of the fact can always has a potential to change for our real learning. The book touches almost all aspects of what we may name as a part of 'popular culture' like movies/video, to music, television to books, technology, sound tracks, websites, toys, graphic novels and even the latest food trends among the society and so on. If we are truly interested in facilitating student-centered approach in social studies, then we must begin to integrate long ignored tools such as media culture. There is a need for the youth to locate themselves in their history as well as in the present society they live in, to find their own voices, critically analyze social issues, establish their own convictions and compassion necessary for living their lives as an ideal citizen with appropriate sense.
The authors have given practical suggestions for integrating the youth cultural icons with their academic progress. Youth culture can be a powerful tool as it allows for critical inquiry and investigation. The book suggests that students should concept and skill development in the early grades so that teachers later on can help make connections to that schema. The above mentioned alternative texts can be used in our classroom instead of being ignored and censored. Youth should be allowed to bring in their culture as they investigate issues, make connections and construct knowledge through their own comprehension of the material. This will helps them to see everything they experience in the world as potential for their critique.
One important point of the book is that it not only pushes the idea of including the popular culture into our curriculum but also gives many applicable suggestions for implementing on this idea. Few essays elaborately explain how music and movies can contribute in the effective class room education. In this sense, this book can be used as a brief manual for those who really are interested in working on incorporating popular culture as a part of their educational planning. The authors suggest various ways of integrating variety of popular texts and tools in teaching. Class room application of youth icons has been highlighted in the entire book.
Global education as a critical component of social studies is another aspect which has been highlighted in the book. In today's interdependent, international community it has become important to know about the world around. The suggestion is that schools must provide opportunities for children to develop cognitive skills to understand the globalization process and to critically analyze its impact on their lives and society. Students must be nurtured with the competence to read the signs, symbols and images (texts) of the world. This is a part of being a global citizen. Essays on global education through pizza and TV cartoons like Japanese anime elaborate on how effectives such icons can be used for global geographical and cultural education.
However, this does not mean that popular culture always has a positive and constructive role to play in the society. There are instances of popular trends which are proving detrimental for the physical and mental health of the society. Consumerism and media industry are glorifying thin bodies. One of the essays on food and popular culture in this book points out that such popular infatuation with perfection and beauty must change if we are to raise our female teenagers as healthy mothers of tomorrow. The essay also rightly suggests, "We must return to the traditional relationship between women and food, one of harmony and enjoyment." (p. 141). An essay on toys points out that although today's market provides the kids with a wide variety of highly structured and meaningful toys but it is also robbing children of their own imagination, problem solving and creativity.
The book can be rated as very insightful and interesting. The book not only elaborately explains the rationale behind exploiting popular culture in education but also provides enough details about the procedures to do so. It is full of constructive ideas to include popular culture in a very positive way with the school curriculum. The book has the power to change one's opinion about the usefulness popular culture and its potential to prove itself a learning technique for children as well as teenagers. It can be a very useful book not only for educators but for parents as well.
© 2009 Richa Yadav
Richa Yadav recently completed her PhD in philosophy of mind from IIT, Kanpur, India. Her dissertation is on individuation of mental states, with especial reference to the individualist and the non-individualist debate. Her research interest lies in philosophical issues in cognitive science, philosophy of language, epistemology, ethics, translation studies and metaphors. She is also a creative writer.