Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Better Teaching Through Reggae

I teach a high school course in Human Geography. Yesterday’s class was about how the developed world is fucking the developing world over. This is actually in my curriculum -- they call it Dependency Theory (but they don’t use the f-word). To illustrate this topic, I began class yesterday with a little PowerPoint presentation set to Bob Marley’s “Babylon System.” While this might sound cool to you, the opening notes alone were enough to elicit a chorus of moans and groans from my students, who whined, “Haven’t we already heard this song?”

You have already heard this song, but I like “Babylon System,” okay, kids? And here’s the thing: you do too. Because what I notice whenever I play “Babylon System” (or any other song) in class is that you’re paying attention. Sure, I could stand up and talk about Dependency Theory, but it would sound like this: “blah blah blah IMF, blah blah blah third world debt, blah blah blah corporate colonialism, blah blah blah sweatshops,” and within three minutes your eyes would glaze over and you’d start whispering to the kid next to you or surreptitiously text messaging your friends.

I get it: caring about stuff is so not cool. That became clear to me way back in November when we talked about Female Genital Mutilation (also in my curriculum) and all you had to say was that it’s “pretty wack.” I also get that music is cool, which is why I use it to trick you into learning about stuff you would otherwise pretend not to care about.

So go ahead and complain about having to listen to “Babylon System” again. You're not fooling me: your eyes are glued to the screen, half of you are tapping your feet, and a handful of you are even singing along under your breath. And that, despite your whining smokescreen, is what tells me you might be a little more into this whole learning thing than you like to let on. It's how I know I'm doing my job successfully and what gets me out of bed every morning. These are the moments that constitute the joy of teaching.

So thank you, kids, for yesterday's little moment. It probably seemed like I didn't care whether or not you were engaged, but I was just pretending. You know, kind of like you were pretending you're too cool for school.

PS: For an amusing examination of Bob Marley’s popularity among the frat boy set, click here.


Anonymous said...

Feeley puts the POWER back into Power Point.

brian said...

You have to check this site out. Control the president with your mouse. Helpful if you have some acid handy, though humorous either way.