you gotta be cruel to be kind
On the fly… pardon the roughness.
Someone asked in this morning’s discussion about how to address the fact that we’re “taking” that which belongs to the students and making it part of academia. As someone who studies popular culture and gaming, I’ve heard this one before (over and over, in fact). Some people go so far as to call it “colonizing,” which just isn’t the right word (more on this later), but I think it also indicates a problem with how we characterize such things.
It seems really simple for me: as a teacher, one has to be “legit.” It’s an issue of ethos with a subject. If one of us were to walk into the classroom and just recast/retask that which belongs to the student, it would be an act of intellectual violence. But when it’s OUR “stuff,” too, we’re just sharing and helping students to learn using media and cultural artifacts that have meaning to them (instead of continuing to insure that they consider books “our” thing).
For example, I’ve taught units on parody in cartoons (Family Guy, South Park, the Simpsons), and I’ve taught with comic books and sci-fi movies (Spider-Man, Superman, The Matrix). I have as much—if not more—experience with these things as almost every student that comes into my classroom. In that sense, I’m not taking from them… I’m encouraging the creation of a community of us.
So maybe the short answer is that if one isn’t familiar with an idea or media, one should only allow students to work with it. We can’t teach what we don’t know. But at the same time, when I teach with World of Warcraft in the fall, my students will see my high-level toons and know that I’m not just fiddling with one of “their” toys.