Saturday, March 06, 2010

Cultural Utility Belt

As some of you remember, one of my favorite blogs is NPR's pop culture mash-up, Monkey See. What follows is from a post from there by Linda Holmes - it's actually about pop culture & science education, but see if it doesn't apply equally well to ministry...
Neil deGrasse Tyson: At the end, I said, "Just by a show of hands, how many among you do not own a television?" These are people who teach physics. Half the hands went up.

I said, "Of those who remain, who own a television, how many of you don't watch it except maybe you put a movie on it?" Half the hands went up. Which meant three-quarters of that audience had no access to the single greatest force on the thinking of the people who it is that they're trying to teach. And I said to them: you cannot call yourself an educator if you have no insights into the tangled mental pathways that exist in the people who you are trying to teach.

It's not just a lesson plan you're handing people. You've got to get in the head and find out how they're going to misthink what it is you're saying. You've got to get in the head and find out what excites them to care about what it is you're saying. And if you don't, you're just simply lecturing. You're not an educator, you're a lecturer, and they either get it or they don't. If that's what you are, fine, but don't pretend you're anything else.

So the average kid watches 30 hours of TV a week. You should at least know what it is. I'm not saying watch it every night. But if there's a hit show, know what the hit show is. Take a minute, watch American Idol. Watch NOVA. Watch the movie of the week. Watch the football game. Watch Janet Jackson's left breast. Find out what people are talking about. Because that will matter to them, whether or not it matters to you.

You know something? You're not the subject of that class -- they are...

Not all television programming lends itself to that analysis, but nonetheless, there could have been an episode that had an interesting twist, a plot that you can tap. In fact, I view those tools as features on the utility belt that I carry with me every day. I'll call that my cultural utility belt...

And therein, I think, should be the tool kit of the educator. Little bit of pop culture, little bit of sports, little bit of politics, little bit of everything that's not in your field, because it's going to be in everybody else's portfolio of interests. It allows you to go places undreamt of if all you did was speak to the line-by-line notes of your curriculum.
Read the whole thing at Why Educators Need A Cultural Utility Belt.

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