Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday's Post

No, no, no, no, NO. You cannot change the the name of English or Language Arts to Cultural Studies. I'm sorry. I really couldn't handle it if I had to teach "Cultural Studies." Why? Because that's not what I'm teaching. It's part of what I'm teaching, but not enough to teach all of it. My argument for this can go in two directions. One is that if you change the name, are you changing the approach too, or are you just changing the name to make people feel better? Because if you're changing the name just to make it "sound" better, I think that's a little patronizing. While I was reading the article, it seemed like things would change, but not really. If you're changing it with a massive emphasis on culture, you will miss a huge aspect of Language Arts that doesn't have much of anything to do with cultural studies.

Another problem I have with this is that the name is too close to social studies. I didn't think this article distinguished what the differences would be enough. I'm not convinced that what we would be teaching as "cultural studies" would differ all that much from social studies. Is this social studies with books? It would seem so. I need to know what the application would be and explicitly how English would be taught as cultural studies. I just wasn't seeing this clearly enough in the article. I liked that the article recognized that the subject of English covers a lot, but didn't like that that we weren't teaching them enough. I know he wasn't blaming teachers, but it was still a little irritating to read.

This brings up my final question. To me, at the very end of the day, literature is an art. When I read a book I look at the artistic techniques the author uses to express their purpose/point. Yes, there is a large cultural aspect. But there's also the mechanics, the message, the dynamics of the work that play into literature as well. Culture is only one piece that is used in understanding an artistic statement in writing. Let's not go overboard.

Maybe a better solution would be not to change the name of English, but to break up the class or use it in conjunction with social studies so English and social studies units are planned and taught together. For example, the English department could teach The Diary of Anne Frank while the social studies department teaches historical and cultural aspects of the Holocaust. I've actually heard about a lot of schools doing this and the teachers and students seem to like the set up. Or, since English is such a broad field, why not split the class up. This way students receive a balance of grammar, literature, culture, literary techniques, journalism and media and whatever else we have to teach that I forgot to mention. If not splitting up into small narrow-subjected classes, maybe splitting into two different English classes would be better, although I don't know how it could only be broken up into two classes. The thing about English is that it's so broad and there are so many things to teach, but not enough to be broken up into very productive classes.

I am solutionless on this subject. But I definitely don't think it's to change the name.

Also, Ann, I was still laughing about something you said in class on Thursday. "It's fresh start; kids, bring your own teachers!"


  1. Hiya Maggie -
    I had to check in. I am clearly going through some sort of perverse withdrawl of multicultural conversation.

    I wonder what would happen if kids did bring teachers of their choosing to school with them. Would the teachers audition for the roles? Apply directly to the students? Participate in group interviews with cliques of students? Canvas neighborhoods to promote their style of teaching?

    Wierd thought.

    I also agree that it is not time to change the name of English class to Cultural Studies.

  2. Interesting point about Cultural Studies being too close to Social Studies�and good point about the art of a text. As you well know, Pirie (and others like him), would argue that we need to look at that same art in new media�youtube, advertising, blogs, whatever. Literature has its (revered) place, and we also shouldn�t forget about the value of examining texts that are important to people outside the classroom too.