For the first time in weeks I have not had to do “work” on a weekend (unless we count replying to email) so I have been able to do some TV watching catchup from my DVD recorder. Last night I went retro with Pie in the Sky which I will never cease to adore. I still have an Annie Liebovitz documentary from weeks ago, Brick Lane, all three episodes of Strike Back and La Vie en Rose from last night on SBS to make my way through. However, today I felt like a documentary about the 1960s in America so I watched Roads to Memphis all about the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the story of his assassin James Earl Ray. It seemed peculiarly pertinent that I watch this as it connects directly with some of the topics for discussion that have been popping up in class. In the first few weeks of term we introduce our students to the idea of genre, use of language for particular audiences and purposes, the difference between writing and verbal speech etc. Two of the examples we provide always provoke a lot of discussion and this year was no different. First we give them an excerpt from Dr King’s “I have a dream” and this is followed by Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. While it is fascinating to see the varying levels of awareness of these cultural figures, it is also interesting that the students engage with the writings so readily even if they don’t know very much about either Lincoln or King (I blame the current education system but that’s another story). We talk about the language they use, who are they speaking to, why do they choose particular words, phrases, do we think they are effective in getting their messages across. In some ways, for students to answer these questions its helpful if they have no prior or contextual knowledge until after the discussion; that way they take the writing on its own merit. Anyway, it’s always a lesson I enjoy and it often filters through into many classes that follow.
Watching Roads to Memphis this afternoon I was reminded of how far we haven’t come in many ways. A similar point was hammered home to me when I used John Lennon’s Imagine in class for reflection last week – giving the students the song lyrics to reflect on the message. Nothing has changed. In fact with the ongoing turmoil throughout the world constantly bombarding us on the news, Lennon’s song seemed even more poignant. Sure, call him naive, a dreamer, but without the dreamers the world would be a poorer place.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b7qaSxuZUg (embedding is disabled so you’ll have to click on the link)
A fellow lecturer was keen to use some Bob Dylan as well for similar reasons. And with the connections between everything suddenly seemed very clear. And sad. I don’t really keep up with current music these days…well that is I don’t listen to Triple J or any other commercial radio. Who are the equivalent songwriters writing protest songs, songs of political comment – for me over the past decade it’s been Wilco, Billy Bragg and the like. Bring them forward. I think we need some decent dreamers.3 Comments »