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Perspective: You could learn a thing or two in a cultural studies class

The Weeknd, 2013
By The Come Up Show - Flickr: The Weeknd @ Massey Hall October 17, 2013, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33237175
The Weeknd, 2013

Have you ever noticed that people have the tendency to diss things they don’t really know about or understand? Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of hip hop, well pop culture generally. In fact, I teach a class called the Social Philosophy of Hip Hop. We talk about both great artists and recordings, and its history, economics, politics, and culture.

Recently, Ryerson University’s Creative School in Toronto announced a course on Drake and the Weeknd, both multi-platinum, multi-Grammy winning artists. Many social media comments lauded the idea. Others? Well… not so much. Some jeered, what could you possibly learn from that course? One said, “That university sounds awful.” Another said it’s a waste of time and money. My favorite asked, “What’s it called… Mediocre 101?”

In higher education there are courses examining tv shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad, music from Bob Dylan to Kendrick Lamar, and the gamut of film genres. This is cultural studies. These courses sound fun or trivial, but they challenge students to learn complex social, cultural, and critical theory and how popular culture and those who change it affect society.

Perhaps if we were less willing to dismiss but to seek understanding of those things we don’t know about then maybe, just maybe we can bridge gaps and grow to respect each other a little more.

Like I tell my students in the hip hop class, you don’t have to like something or someone but if anybody can sell 10 million copies of anything, or gain 70 million Twitter followers, or reshape popular culture, you should at least respect it.

I am Joseph Flynn and that is my perspective.

Joseph Flynn is the executive director for equity and inclusion in the Division of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and an associate professor of curriculum and instruction.