Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That is so '90s

One of the reasons I love teaching is that I am constantly learning from my students.

In English 101, I emphasize teaching rhetoric and formal writing. I also try to help the students increase their critical thinking skills. To accomplish this latter goal, I use a reader full of contemporary essays that the students are assigned to read. Then each day, I give them an in class exercise--a writing assignment to respond in a paragraph or so to a prompt I give.

A recent prompt was this question--Who has an iconic status today equal to Elvis’? Why?

I have always encouraged my students to answer in whatever way they will, as long as they back up their responses. This particular question has been the instigator of my learning. Several years ago a student responded to this prompt by saying--50 cents. Only, I heard --FITTY cent. So, I said--what? And eventually learned the name of a rapper. Let me be the first to say--I don't know rap; I don't like rap; I don't think rap is "music"--but the students like rap.

So I went home and looked up
50 cent and learned a bit about contemporary culture. I still don't like rap.

Using this same prompt, I have also learned about Lil Wayne and will.i.am--not sure that I am necessarily better off knowing about these people, but at least I am not totally hopelessly befuddled standing in front of my class.

So, it was with great humor--and an actual guffaw--that I read a student response to yet another prompt. In an essay unit on "Entertainment" (which is also where the Elvis question gets asked), I posed this writing prompt-- Do you think children watch too much television? How much did you watch as a child? Did you have rules limiting how much to watch?

Having collected the students' response, I was reading along in one young man's answers when I read this opening sentence--That is so '90s.


I re-read it, and then burst out laughing. His point was, I think, that someone of my generation would focus only on television and the excesses of watching it. His generation, however, has multiple electronic diversions. There is the internet, there are video games, there is X-box games or Wii.

In some ways, my question would be like someone asking me, when I was a student--do you think the radio is harming our young people.

Well, I got his point. Next year, the question will be rephrased--probably I will say--do children today spend too much time on the Internet or too much time playing electronic games?

Heaven forbid that I should be so '90s.

12 comments:

Ruth said...

I hear the 'so 90's' comment from my children. They disdain the '80's, the decade of their birth, but the '70's were so retro. Do I feel old or what! I do agree with your student though. TV is becoming insignificant to this generation. We bought my husband a big screen TV this year, but my daughter watches YouTube on her tiny Ipod touch screen. The internet is far more important to her.

Anvilcloud said...

That's a bit funny and a bit sobering.

Beverly said...

Well, we are behind the times, aren't we. Living alone, I must confess my TV is on a lot. For the noise I think and the cmopany. I still use a VCR to watch movies sometimes or DVD's, but I don't have a DVR. I'm finding that I use TV mainly for watching sports (Go, Penn State, and Let's Go Rays.)

I'm finding that I use my computer to catch up on some TV shows that I may have missed. I find I'm always a step behind in all the new technology.

A lot of people have smiled and laughed when they see me with my iPod, or I mention the fact that I have one. Oh well.

RuthieJ said...

Hmmmmm, now I feel really old after reading this Donna!
and I'm still trying to figure out anyone who has an iconic status equal to Elvis (because I'm seriously out of touch with any current music, although I certainly agree with you on rap)

NCmountainwoman said...

Oh that is too funny. On second thought...well, never mind.

JeanMac said...

I haven't a clue about the new technology - I'm lucky to make a blog post!

Susan Gets Native said...

My kids are still young enough, thank goodness, to be blissfully unaware of how old I am. And anything I do is cool to them.
I had better enjoy it while I have that, huh?

egretsnest said...

The current term is "screen time" -- it covers a multitude of sins. :)

In answer to your question, I would have to say that one must consider both quality and quantity. My husband and I both enjoy watching tv and playing computer games and the like. To deny our children something that we enjoy would not work for us. That said, we are very careful about what and how much they watch and are exposed to. We limit their access to sexual content and violent content. We are generally with them when they watch anything that verges into either of those territories so that we can discuss, protect, and even shield if needed. We recently watched all the Indiana Jones movies with the kids. I'm happy to say that they are willing participants in their own protection. We would warn them to cover their eyes when a gruesome part was coming up -- they did so willingly and, in fact, my son grabbed *my* hand to shield his eyes. That said, I recognize the need for constant vigilance. They do not see that the computer can be dangerous and so will try out web addresses. My son said to me that he wanted to find more fun games so he just typed "fungames.com". Thankfully, it was not a porn website but actually had some fun games on it. Protecting them is going to be harder and harder as I find it harder and harder to anticipate what they might do.

Anyway, hope that helps you update your prompt for next year . . . can't have the kids seeing you as someone stuck in the '90s! That's like another century or something!

Jayne said...

Hmmm... screen time... new one on me too. :c) Course I don't have a typical child either, so I am inept at culture things as well. I depend on my sister and nephews to clue me in. I asked my husband the other morning who Chris Brown was. He had no clue. I had just read where he "swept the American Music Awards." We are so 90's...

Dog_geek said...

Ha! I hate it when I get busted like that, but the amount of time I spend with undergrads and grad students keeps me somewhat up to speed.

Mary said...

After all this being said, I still think children and young adults need to occupy themselves with entertainment other than TV and electronic games. Children need to play outdoors, interact with real people, and get tired enough to sleep soundly. Yes, I'm sooo 90s.

50 Cent equivalent to Elvis? NEVER!

troutbirder said...

In my case I must be so 60's. And agree totally with you take on "rap." Ugh!