Course Design: 20th Century History and Popular Music
For many students, popular music is scene as being disposable and readily replaceable. The nature of the modern media cycle means that much of what dominates the sphere of popular music is inherently designed to achieve vast commercial appeal with a short shelf-life. However, there are also ways in which popular music has figured critically into moments in history. This is the premise that underscores the proposed higher education course, which would be couched within the broader discipline of History.
The proposed course is intended to draw parallels between important moments in history and the way that the culture of popular music connected to these moments or in some powerful instances such as the British Invasion, Woodstock and the Hip Hop movement, even came to define some of these important historical moments. Using different eras in history to formulate the respective units discussed, the course would give students an opportunity to make lasting and personal connections between moments in history and the way that expression responded to or influenced these moments through the medium of popular music.
One of the most exciting dimensions of a course designed this way is that it engages students on a level that is familiar and even exciting to them. For many, the idea of drawing connections between their own musical tastes and important moments in history opens the door to a far more personal way of engaging standard course material such as that on American post-World War II culture, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and that various fluctuations in urban population over the whole of the 20th century. The course will demonstrate that we can frame discussion on these subjects in ways that reduce reliance on ethnocentric historical accounts by using this artistic and commercial medium of music.
This complies with evolving learning theories such as that espoused in the text by Hurtado et al. (1999), which asserts that institutions of higher education must work harder to effectively embrace the diversity that is a growing characteristic for most univerisities. According to Hurtado et al., "the needed fundamental institutional changes would include a conceptual shift in thinking about diversity and about an institution's overall teaching and learning priorities, in addition to structural changes that would allow for increased interaction and involvement among students from diverse backgrounds." (Hurtado et al., p. 1)
The content and orientation of the proposed course would adhere to Hurtado's vision.
Course Learning Outcomes:
The course learning outcomes center on both the historical and the musical content of the course material. Thus, objectives include the following:
1. Provide a framework for learning 20th century American history that is at once informative and engaging.
2. Provide a framework to introduce students to a wide range of historically significant musical performances, recordings, artists and movements.
3. Require students to draw critical connections between moments in history and musical recordings.
4. Engage in far-ranging classroom discussions aimed at evaluating the cultural impact of the music and, similarly, the impact of culture on said music.
5. Invite students to establish connections between the music that is important in their lives and moments in culture and history.
In order to promote the accomplishment of the learning objectives stated here above, the course would be divided by chronological moments. The four course sessions would represent four distinct moments in history and would consequently provide a clean framework for dividing course content.
With the modern era of popular music initiating in the 1950s, with the birth of Rock and Roll and the appearance of Elvis Presley on television and the charts, the Post-WWII era comprises the first course session. The second session would be centered on the Protest Movement which initiates with the Civil Rights Era in the mid-1960s and proceeds to the Disco-dominated Gay Rights movement of the late 1970s. The third unit would assess the late Cold War era of the 1980s and early 1990s, where MTV was a dominant musical and cultural force. The fourth and final unit would concern the present Digital Age and would give students the best opportunity to draw a direct connection between the course material and some media content that may be significant in their personal lives.
Within the context of each individual unit, class time would revolve on a combination of historical lecture, group media listening and class discussion. Each…