Sunday, March 09, 2003

Cultural Literacy in a Video World-Last week, when The Note (and others) was mentioning the Clinton-Dole 60 Minutes story, they made passing reference to a wicked Saturday Night Live parody of the 70s Point-Counterpoint segment, with the faux James Kilpatrick saying in his counterpoint- "Shana [Alexander, the liberal commentator], you ignorant slut!" Somehow, that phrase has worked its way into the pundit lexicon. An interesting question to pose her is how do we incorporate those bits of electronic pop culture into our education process; not that this particular SNL skit needs to be in the canon, but a lot of non-print pop culture is. For instance, from Casablanca, we get "round up the usual suspects," "I'm shocked, shocked...," "we'll always have Paris" as well as the never-actually-uttered "play it again, Sam." Most of us will have picked up on most of those without ever watching Bogey and Claude Raines. To fast forward a third of a century, look at how much of the Star Wars universe has filtered in to the lexicon, with comments about Jedi mind tricks and Death Stars; the movie title itself became a synonym for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Movies, TV shows, even video games add to the political lexicon; two decades ago, Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" ads became part of the Mondale-Hart race and buying a competitor who was attempting a takeover of you was christened a "Pac-Man Maneuver." In the past, our basic cultural literacy set has a lot of classic literature and history to draw upon; today, a lot of those cultural references aren't in print form. Would we need to add some sort of 20th Century Video Literature to our American Literature and British Literature sequences for high school students? If so, what would you cram into it?

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