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Pop Goes the Culture

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Pop Goes the Culture

Organizers (from left) Zemke, Frymer, DiPadova, shaenfield and Adam.

A recent episode of the animated television show South Park mirrored the much-publicized Terry Schiavo quality-of-life debate. Featuring Kenny - the character known for dying during each episode - it aired on the day of Schiavo's death. In today's culture, is this brand of television entertainment a legitimate part of education?

Past TC President Lawrence Cremin, in an essay called "Popular Culture and Pop Education," called for an end to the view that popular culture is the enemy of education. "Today, the dominant approach is the suspicion that pop culture is warping the minds of the young and immersing them in sex and violence," says Professor John Broughton, who teaches classes in cultural studies at TC. "But that's disinformation. Instead, we need to teach young people to be skeptical and critical about popular culture."

In that vein, five students, most of whom met in Broughton's classes - Audra DiPadova, Steve Zemke, Cyrille Adam, David Shaenfield and postdoc Ben Frymer--organized Cultural Studies Matters. The two-day conference brought together 150 participants for a variety of workshops covering youth culture, media studies, music, classroom theory, film, race and ethnicity. Presentations included "South Park as Cultural Studies Praxis" and others that explored issues such as the image of Che Guevara in popular culture and the hegemony of Disney's The Lion King.

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