The Architects of a New World: Kids Grappling with Pop Culture and History

Today I walked in my classroom to the excitement of 10 or so (of my 50) kids who, after conversations we’ve had for the past two years, understand pop culture as the pulse of daily American life, and value it for the insights it offers into the broad, mainstream values and discomforts of a society that is as real as, but larger than, themselves.

They’d watched the Grammys last night, and so we talked about Kendrick Lamar, and what made those 7 minutes incendiary — beyond the stage, beyond the red carpet — , but also about the importance of that stage, and that red carpet.

We’re discussing Modernism in my Social Studies class, as a diagnosis and a lingering legacy of World War One, the War to End All Wars. What was fractured, betrayed, distorted, forced back together, simplified, disillusioned in the 1910s showed up on canvases, in film, and in music, in poetry and in novels. That’s what a movement is – everything they thought they buried on battlefields but came back up rising after the rains.

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Today, we’re witnessing #BlackLivesMatter as a diagnosis and legacy of a movement (political, social, artistic) ignited by Occupy, the Arab Spring, Ferguson and Baltimore. These kids are getting it – they’re starting to understand the reaches of the imagination and voice of young people, they’re delighting in tracking, following and participating in this emerging story of our new millennium, and they’re excited about the possibilities.

Kids are not apathetic. They are not too little. They are not powerless.   Kids are full of fire and of spark, and it’s an honor to be by their side as they try on new glasses, new lenses and prescriptions, as they decide how to see and what to look for in the world beyond their windows.

We need to invest – more, much, much more – seriously in their futures; especially in the futures of Black and Brown and poor kids. We need to take them seriously because they are the architects of a new world, of a whole world, and they will build it with or without us. They build it every day, actually.

Anca Stefan is a DAE member and a 7th and 8th grade Humanities teacher at Lakewood Montessori Middle school where she has taught for the past 4 of her total 8 years as a North Carolina educator. She runs Modern Issues, an afterschool club for any students interested in wondering, discussing and learning more about the happenings of the world around them.

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