I would like to have been a fly on the wall when the course on Beyoncé Knowles was proposed at the University of Victoria in Canada. On further thought, there may not have been as much of an uproar as one would think because I understand that there was a course titled Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame offered at the University of South Carolina, Skidmore College is offering a course on Miley Cyrus, and Keanu Reeves has been the subject of college courses since 1994.
If the idea is not completely out of the realm of what is going on throughout higher education, then, what does it all mean? I think it means that there is credence to the following comment about higher education:
“The 19th century belonged to the university president; the 20th century belonged to the faculty; and the 21st century belongs to the student.”
Bernard Shapiro, then head of McGill University, and Ann Dawsett Johnston declared this summation in Maclean’s, a Canadian weekly magazine, in 1998. We may be coming to an understanding of the pronouncement now.
Some of the most innovative educational practices are clearly adapting to students rather than the other way around, and it’s not all about pop culture, but pop culture may be a large part of it if this is what is important to your students. Getting students’ attention and motivating them to want to learn what we think is important should be done “by any means necessary.”
I highly recommend an article by José Antonio Bowen in the spring 2014 edition of AAC&U’s Liberal Education, titled, “The Teaching Naked Cycle: Technology is a Tool, but Psychology is the New Pedagogy” that gets to the heart of engagement and student success.
Faculty, in collaboration with student affairs, have access to students in ways that can locate the “entry points” to what is important to students.