Using Popular Culture to Teach Critical Thinking

Lisa Walker, Ph.D., Sociology and Organizational Science, UNC Charlotte

This seminar is designed to think about how to develop critical thinking skills in students by examining how various contemporary issues are depicted in popular media. To do so, we will: (1) identify and examine the assumptions embedded in different cultural and theoretical perspectives about various social issues; (2) examine the factual data about social issues in different societies; (3) seek to understand and appreciate various cultures, peoples and societies throughout the world by examining global patterns; and (4) critically approach depictions of social issues in popular media. 

Specific social issues to be explored will depend on the interests of seminar participants, but may include depictions of various racial and ethnic groups, family and relationship issues, and portrayals of particular occupations (e.g., scientist or law enforcement officer). Readings will include classic pieces from Noam Chomsky, the book Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, and selections from “Media and Society: Critical Perspectives” by Graeme Burton. Much of the seminar will be conducted using classroom activities like debates, internet scavenger hunts, and listening/watch parties. The seminar will also include a field trip to a current release film.