Kidstory: Social Studies through Kid Culture and TVCartoons

By White, Cameron | Social Studies Review, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Kidstory: Social Studies through Kid Culture and TVCartoons


White, Cameron, Social Studies Review


Introduction

What is the role of kid (popular) culture in schools and society? Does kid (popular) culture have a role in the education process of our young? Kid culture plays a very prominent role in our lives and is very important to our society, our citizens, and especially our children. In a society increasingly fragmented by debate, misunderstandings, and lack of consensus, perhaps kid culture remains one of the few arenas that provide a forum for common understandings, dialog, and communication, at least for our kids. If this is so, we need to better integrate kid culture in the education process. It is precisely in the diverse spaces and spheres of kid culture that most of the education that matters today is taking place on a global scale (Giroux, 1994).

Education should be aware and unafraid of childhood desire, often connecting it to children's efforts to understand the world and themselves (Steinber, 1997). Childhood desire is a natural phenomenon that is unfortunately often driven and dictated by the dominant culture. The idea is to critically analyze these issues and also provide the critical efficacy children need so as to facilitate this natural desire and wonder for learning about and coping with their world. This is vital if we are to "employ" kid culture and childhood desire to promote social education.

A strong argument can be made that kid culture has become the most influential education institution for our children in society, and many seem quite frustrated by this (Buckingham, 1998). Our society has made kid culture a cornerstone of cultural identity and we simply cannot ignore that fact. Television, movies, music and other media provide fodder for connections among our disconnected citizenry. Why not use this, rather than belittle it? We owe it to our kids to provide opportunities for critical analysis of kid culture. Rather than blindly accepting the "Disneyfication" or "Simpsonizing" of our kids and their lives, use these as teachable opportunities. Film, television, music, and other forms of kid culture can provide rich opportunities for teaching and learning (Steinberg, 1997).

Tuning In

Kid culture such as movies, television, music, media, toys, technology, sports, food, fashion, and fads can be used in a number of ways in education. Integrating kid culture for social education can enhance a critical and active citizenry who are able to think for themselves and engage in problem solving. The idea of providing voice and empowering kids with meaningful, challenging, integrative, value-based and controversial, and active teaching and learning should be the goal (Expectations, 1994). And kid culture offers a natural integration. Just imagine the power of movies, television, music, media, toys, technology, and fads.

Our schools are still floundering in the "information as knowledge" mindset that has dictated teaching and learning for so long. And with the upsurge in accountability and high-stakes testing to ensure "knowledge," this is even more entrenched than ever. All stakeholders are caught in the middle of what many consider an over reaction to the state of schools and education as a cause for society's ills. Apple and Beane suggest issues including home schooling, charter schools, test preparation as essential curriculum, prison-like schools, and both kids and teachers bored and demeaned into submission (Apple & Beane, 1995).

But what better way to enhance the idea of social education than to employ kid culture? Kid culture is perhaps one of the few remaining avenues for possible common dialog and understanding. If nothing else, it often provides a context for connections to the world and sense making in the world. Passion and intrinsic appeal is somehow inherent in kid culture. This dialog and common understanding in kid culture can be used to enhance social education (White, 2003). Again, despite the often negative view adults often have of various kid culture, there seems little today that we get excited over and encourages social discourse more so than this culture.

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