Decolonizing my social studies classroom (one film at a time)
But teaching history is a bit trickier.
|Satirical Stereotype Map of the World (source)|
How can one expect American students to be interested in a world that is defined only in relationship to perceived U.S. wins or losses? Yes, at first glance, this may *seem* the best way to make a foreign culture relevant to a person firmly planted in their home culture, but this is really the pedagogical equivalent of a person feigning public interest in a romantic partner who apparently has no other life outside the romance. Sure, the chemistry might be there, the power dynamics might be exciting, but what are you going to talk about afterward? The weather?
|Literally the first result when you search the|
year 1963 on Google Images (source)
For example, three far-reaching events that also occurred in 1963:
*Josip Broz Tito named President for Life in Yugoslavia
*Police raids in South Africa capture numerous African National Congress leaders, including Nelson Mandela
*The first Bond film, "Dr. No" is released in the U.S.
But, why should students be interested in these events any more than the death of a president they never knew?
For some, it's enough to draw the cause and effect connections across the temporal landscape:
3. 26 Bond films have been released to date, and could there really be another film series that better reflects the the new retro-European ideal of neocolonial power? Certainly, one couldn't find another franchise that beats Bond in illustrating the mythologization of Western intelligence services in the Information Age.
But for the other 9 out of 10 students, these correlations will mean nothing at first. A long collapsed Yugoslavia and a genocide that happened in a mythical time (today's high school students were born after 1995) means nothing to them.
What *might* mean something to them is that they've heard and hummed the James Bond theme their entire life, and maybe they like the movies. Or maybe they DON'T "get" the movies, but are kind of curious about the phenomenon itself.
Entertainment is personally relevant. Entertainment entertains.
Or, to give another example, the first image above is from Half of a Yellow Sun (Nigeria, 2013). Significance to world literature or film aside, there's nothing like some drunk postcolonial sociology to make a film worth seeing. If you're a sociology nerd. For most non-Nigerians, the heart-rending personal stories within the story are what might make it worth giving up a Friday night at a Marvel film ... not the social commentary. BUT, the social commentary and unique cultural points of view are still there to be absorbed, nonetheless.
So, instead of asking my students to read a textbook and take history tests chock full of dates they will forget tomorrow, I decided to design a curriculum that would take students through the years of 1945 to 2016 movie by movie, one pop culture moment after another, with political scandals and propaganda in scores, and without confining ourselves to the casually self-centered historical comfort zone of American life.
It's still a work in progress, but it's been quite an interesting two years of teaching this course ... to say the least. I've found a lot of things that work, and a lot of things that don't, and over the next few months, I'm going to write about it; focusing on the pop-culture items, documentaries, and discussions from around the world that I've employed to try to make the scary places outside our American borders (A) personal, and (B) interesting to my world history students.
I hope you enjoy!
Note: I am a tutor who teaches middle school and high school classes at a small academy in the Twin Cities, MN, that provides non-traditional students with a part-time, private-school-esque experience. Thus, I have a bit more room to experiment and to develop curriculum than the average public school professional.
I really like the satirical stereotypical map of the world and I do hope the movies reflect those stereotypes. It would be dreadful to find they weren't true. :-)ReplyDelete
SSW, yes I only allow stereotype reinforcing cinema in my classroom. Obviously, American kids only know how to talk about India in reference to cows, caste, and crazy Bollywood numbers. Or maybe poverty.Delete
Seriously, though, often I start my world geo classes with kids writing their stereotypes of a place on the white board as fast as they can. Then we "wait and see" if the mental image tracks with what they study.
I'm glad you noticed the smiley.In 1984 when P T Usha from India was placed 4th in the 400m hurdles Judi Brown the American lady who won the silver medal said she was shocked that a woman from India actually competed in sports, "I thought they were in purdah" was her comment.ReplyDelete
You can see the race here.
Usha was and still is probably India's greatest athlete and she had just started running the 400 metre hurdles, you can see her technique is faulty in the video.
Ayway some of us were a bit confused about that remark. We knew we had millions in India who were illiterate and ignorant, but we did think that people in the US had access to a better education.
But then India did not fit very comfortably into the US scene then just as Korea (both North and South) did not fit well into the average Indian's ken then so we are all even steven.
In 1984 I guess to most Indians all Americans looked like Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford and occasionally Lionel Ritchie sang.