What by many people. (Storey, 2006). This definition can

What is your
understanding of Popular culture and Education?

Popular culture is the accumulation of cultural products
such as art, literature, music, fashion, film, dance, cyber culture, radio and
television that are consumed by much of society’s population. We as individuals
are immersed in popular culture. We participate in popular culture in a myriad
of ways by what we choose to watch on television, read online and offline and
listen too through the media. Although popular culture has a major influence in
our lives it can be seen as insignificant to some as it was originally
associated with the lower class and individuals who share a “high culture”,
such as middle and upper-class members, who value their elite culture and
disregard the “lower culture” that is associated with the working class. Whilst
others may view popular culture as trivial, it is important to see the link
between popular culture and education. Some view popular culture as a tool to
promote learning in the classroom because it is deemed as a way to connect with
the youth as they involve themselves with popular culture in their everyday
lives. This essay will explore my understanding of popular culture thorough
various perspectives presented by different theorists as well as the link
between popular culture and education.

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John Storey (2006) provides us with six perspectives on
popular culture. The first being the idea that “Popular culture can be thought
of as culture that is liked by many people. (Storey, 2006). This definition can
be seen as “problematic” (Storey, 2006) as it is difficult to quantify how many
people this refers too. Although problematic, this definition can be seen as
comprehensible as the word “popular” itself is associated with the idea of
being liked or enjoyed as well as supported by many people. Storey, however,
describes it as a “virtually useless” definition. The second perspective on
popular culture looks at the idea of popular culture itself being seen as an
“inferior culture”. This perspective comes from the “culture and civilisation”
tradition, which is generalised by cultural theorists F.R Leavis and Matthew
Arnold (Storey, 1998). Both Arnold and Leavis hold this view on popular culture
due to the massive changes in industrialization and urbanisation in the late 19th
century and early 20th century. There were massive changes to the
way people lived and worked due to industrial capitalism rapidly growing. This
also meant that there was a general change in culture. Industrialization and
urbanisation meant that most of society were no longer seen as lower than any
sort of class. They became the “working class”. 
Due to the fact that these individuals were living close together in an
urban setting, they were able to develop their own culture. Matthew Arnold, who
family was part of the English cultural elite, who valued “high culture”,
believed there was no place for the working-class culture, labelling the
working class as “envious, ignorant and uncultivated (Arnold, 1869). Leavis
believed that the people with “power” no longer represented “intellectual
authority and culture” (Storey, 2015). The cultural elite believed there were
in a “cultural crisis” as they realised that they could no longer demand
cultural defence and control the working class. Leavis criticises popular
culture in various ways – he criticises popular fiction, describing it as an
addictive form of “distraction” and “compensation”, which he believes results
in the refusal to “face reality” (Storey, 2017).  He describes films as “largely masturbatory”
as they elicit pleasure throughout and lastly, criticise radio for restricting
“critical thought” (Storey, 2017). Both Arnold and Leavis are examples of how
those with social and political power utilize the idea of culture to control
those with less political and economic power such as the working class. The elite
view of culture has had a profound and continuing influence on education
(Richards, 2011). The school curriculum has been shaped by the establishment of
subjects such as English Literature which is said to exhibit cultural value
through classic texts and authors such as Shakespeare. Additionally, the school
curriculum has involved judgments about what constitutes worthwhile and
legitimate knowledge and continues to do so throughout the years (Richards,

The third perspective on popular culture is the idea that
popular culture is commercial culture produced for mass consumption (Storey,
2006). Culture is seen as “hopelessly commercial” as it is consumed by what
Storey describes as passive, “brain numbed” and ideologically manipulated
consumers (Storey, 2006). Storey argues that there are two sides to this
argument, which can be seen as the “politically right” and the “politically
left” side – in regard to the first side of the argument, theorists who are
against popular culture believe that what is under threat is either the traditional
values of “high culture” or the traditional lifestyle of the “tempted” working
class. Secondly, as mentioned before, the “culture and civilisation” tradition
viewed popular culture as a threat to “cultural and social authority” (Storey,
2006). Others view popular culture in another way. The Frankfurt school, a
place of work for critical theorists such as Herbert Marcuse, Theodore Adorno
and Max Horkheimer, view popular culture as a way of hegemonic power to
maintain social authority through the manipulations of the culture industry.
Structuralist and Post structuralists also agree with this perspective such as
Ferdinand de Saussure and Roland Barthes, as they viewed culture as a “sort of
ideological machine which more or less effortlessly reproduces the dominant
ideology.” (p7). Here, viewers are “passive absorbers” of hegemonic messages
with little power to resist or negotiate meanings. The fourth perspective on
education is the view that popular culture itself is not imposed from above,
but which, instead, “originates with people” (Storey, 2006). This view comes
from the “culturalism” tradition, a view that was produced as reaction to the
culture and civilisation view. This view is favoured by theorists such as
Richard Hoggart and E.P Thompson and was essential in launching of the academic
field of cultural studies. Furthermore, this perspective focuses on active
production rather than passive consumption of culture. As well as Hoggart and
Thompson, this perspective is represented by theorists such as Raymond Williams
and Stuart Hill. In this active view of popular culture, cultural commodities
and experiences are the raw materials used to create popular culture (Storey,
1999). This perspective focuses on the intersection of culture and power
(Bennett, 1998) and highlights how popular culture is a site of conflict
between dominant and resistant forces in society. This sixth view draws on
postmodern perspectives of culture and no longer makes distinctions between
high and low culture. Theorists such as Jean Francois Lyotard, Dick Hebdige,
Jean Baudrillard and Fredric Jameson began to pay more attention to the
practice of popular culture in everyday life.

The practice of
popular culture in everyday life, in this case, Education, is now apparent in
many schools and classrooms today. Popular culture is used in classrooms today
as teachers are able to connect with students on a more social and personal level.
Popular culture being seen as a tool to promote learning the classroom is a
postmodernist view, supported by theorists such as Lyotard and Baurdrillard. This
approach draws on postmodern perspectives, focusing primarily on how learners obtain
pleasure from popular culture and how ‘learner identity’ is created and
maintained through popular culture. ‘Learner identity’ is a functional identity
type for the educational contexts where it mediates the individual’s processes
of attribution of meaning and sense making (Coll, 2010). Some adult education
researchers focus on urging teachers to gain a critical understanding of the
popular culture their students are shaped by in order to provide more
culturally relevant education. For example, Guy (2004) and Price (2005) believe
that dominant cultural representations are primarily negative and prohibit the
creation of culturally relevant and meaningful ways of educating urban African
American students. They argue that the “culture gap” between most adult
educators and urban student learners is too broad and that this adversely
effects the learning environment. This gap will be bridged only if educators
engage in self-reflexive critical media literacy by studying hip-hop culture,
the major cultural influence on their students. Other researchers focus more on
how adult educators can incorporate popular cultures into the classroom to
critically examine issues of gender, race, socioeconomic status and class by
analysing how they are depicted in the mass media and assimilated into people’s
lives (Guy 2007; Hanley 2007; Harris and Jarvis 2000). One example of the using
media to foster critical classroom learning comes from Tisdell and Thompson,
(2006, 2007) who found that adults that they surveyed stated that they use
media in their classroom teaching to encourage students to think critically
about diversity issues. They also found in their own teaching that using the
film “Crash”, to stimulate discussion in adult education classrooms led to
deeper analysis of issues surrounding diversity in education.

In conclusion, it
is evident that popular culture has a positive effect with education as well as
teaching the classroom as teachers are able to connect with students even more
than just the average student and teacher relationship. Through the use of film
and the media, students are able to think critically about problems that occur
in our society today and relate to them more easily as they engage with media
through their everyday life.