Monday, November 18, 2019

Queen Bey in the Classroom

You must not know ‘bout me. – Beyonce

Popular or “pop” culture is the aggregate of people’s beliefs and attitudes. More narrowly, pop culture” refers to the media of popular culture—movies and television shows as well as music, computer games, stage plays, novels, and the like. Pop culture influences all walks of daily life from social interactions and religious expression, to legal trends and classroom teaching. In a discussion of legal ethics in popular culture, one author suggests that the effectiveness of pop cultural works depends strongly on the imaginative identification of the audience with their heroes.1

When law students engage with pop culture products, the result is quite different from what occurs in other undergraduate or graduate courses.2 Since the early years of my teaching career, I have used pop culture references in my classroom to enhance my teaching and to make learning relatable to my students. To keep my references current and effective, I’ve had to add social media, hashtags, Insta®, Finsta, Netflix, shipping, shaming, and an uncountable number of terms to use and avoid, to my lexicon. In an attempt to connect with my students, I never hesitate to ask for explanation, demonstration, or example, when they use or present new terms or make what appears to be generally accepted reference to a pop figure. Each year in the classroom, I’ve learned – without judgment – something new that has served the greater purpose of understanding the mindset and frame of reference of the students whom we prepare to enter the legal profession.

Open mind notwithstanding, even I was not prepared for what happened in class last week. Brace yourselves. This news will not be easy to digest. A student did not know who Beyonce was. I found myself responding with an audible gasp when the student, commenting on a PowerPoint slide with an inserted photo of Queen Bey, said is that a picture of someone we are supposed to know? Beyonce

I had long since replaced my references to 8-track tapes, the Sony Walkman®, Peyton Place, public pay phones, and phone numbers like Davis 8-4476 in my lectures. But this? How could anyone walking the earth today not know who Beyonce is? I feared that the utter lack of recognition could stir the Beyhive, and possibly devalue my communicative currency.

As I came to my senses from the sheer shock of it all, I remembered these wise words: the most important focus is on how students are experiencing learning and perceiving the teacher’s actions. As a corrective measure, I’ll get myself in formation and add this experience as another installment to my post about knowing your audience, as a reminder that an example, a visual aid, a personal or pop culture reference is only as effective as the perception of the audience.

(Marsha Griggs)

1William H. Simon, Moral Pluck: Legal Ethics in Popular Culture, 101 Col. L. Rev. 421, 440 (2001).

2Michael Asimow, The Mirror and the Lamp: The Law and Popular Culture Seminar, 68 Journal of Legal Education 115-116 (2018).

 

November 18, 2019 in Music, Teaching Tips, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Wichita Lineman

"I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road
Searchin' in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin' in the wire, I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line
I know I need a small vacation but it don't look like rain
And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line" -- Wichita Lineman, written by Jimmy Webb
 
I've been on a big Glen Campbell kick lately.  The other day, I was working with several students on essay writing and the big issue for all of them was that they were writing correct legal rules but following them with analyses that didn't actually address the rule the students had just written.  For example, after writing "Proof of adultery can be by clear preponderance of the evidence, or opportunity and disposition to commit adultery," they were writing things like "Since 2009, when the marriage started falling apart because of money issues, Lola went to Bertie and told her …." instead of "Here, Skippy was seen leaving Lola's apartment four times late at night when Lola's husband was away on business and Lola kept telling her book club how handsome she thought Skippy was.  Consequently, Slappy can likely prove adultery."  Since these students were having a lot of time management issues, their lack of focus was really killing them.
 
In discussing the issue with their writing, we started talking about song lyrics we admired versus song lyrics we thought were ridiculous, and I was making the argument that a well-crafted song, just like any piece of well-crafted writing, stuck to its themes and imagery and didn't just bounce willy-nilly from idea to idea (basically the difference between The Cult's "Plastic fantastic lobster telephone!" and Belle and Sebastian's "So I gave myself to God -- There was a pregnant pause before He said okay").
 
I haven't done it in a few years, but I used to have students write short poems or songs to answer an essay question as a fun way to make my point about the necessity of making sure an answer actually stays on point and addresses the rules stated in a student's IRAC.  There was a bit of "why are we doing this goofy thing?" pushback, but all of those students managed to dig themselves out of some pretty deep GPA holes, so I think it was a useful exercise.  I haven't brought back the assignment per se, but I have been talking about the idea a lot in my individual meetings with students regarding 1L or bar exam essays.
 
The other day as I was spiraling down the parking garage on my way home, "Wichita Lineman" came up on my iPod.  I hadn't really thought about the lyrics before, but as I listened to them, I admired how Webb's portrait of loneliness sticks so closely to the imagery of a telephone wire repairman.  As the "first existential song" in country music, it's pretty great, and a nice example of the importance of continuity and reference in any well-crafted writing:
 
 
(Alex Ruskell)

March 6, 2015 in Miscellany, Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Using Lyrics to Remember the Law, Part 2

After Amy's post, I received a link to a wonderful website created by my colleague at UConn, Prof. Mark deAngelis. He and his daughter have been re-writing and recording classics songs, replacing the original lyrics with lyrics about the law. I think you will find it creative and entertaining, as well as educational.

http://blawprof.googlepages.com/lawlessongs(lawlessonsinsong)

Have fun! (RCF)

July 14, 2009 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)