As you can imagine introducing any controversial topic to eighth graders from a small rural community is a challenge. Of course depending on your administration it may be easier if you have their support. For example, if my content coordinator came into my class to observe or evaluate me as I was teaching a lesson that incorporated Marxism she wouldn’t question my choice, trusting my teaching abilities, experience, and knowledge. However, as public school teacher I am not sure I would feel comfortable straying away from the common core standards that much. In the last five years our creative ability and teaching freedom has been slowly taken away. Student success on state testing and our teacher evaluations are now linked, this means if our students don’t show a significant amount of growth, our jobs are at risk. As you can imagine this is why ‘teaching to the test’ is becoming an epidemic through many districts.
Cultural studies have never been part of the eighth grade curriculum and we have little say of what are units consists of based on the constrictions of the common core standards and the limited available resources. It is difficult for me to even image bringing up Marxism to my students considering just bringing a pencil to class is considered a huge success on most days. I wouldn’t necessarily stay away from saying specific words like Marxism mostly because my students wouldn’t know they were “hot button” words at all. However, I would need to take a middle ground to be strategic in how I introduced the topics in a lesson so the students are engaged and also retain the information once they leave my classroom.
One way I could include Marxism and cultural theory in the classroom is when I teach the drama unit which revolves around a play adaption of The Diary of Anne Frank. I have a lot of interviews, primary documents, posters, videos, and articles that are incorporate into the unit. Some of these are propaganda postcards with images of Hitler building highways and making improvements as well propaganda children’s books depicting Jews as animals.
Prior to this unit I would have taught a small lesson on propaganda during the dystopian unit as an extra credit assignment. Students can create a poster based on the book with guideline and use of examples. For a refresher and a more in depth explanation I would begin with this video https://youtu.be/-WpFzTplp28. This does a great job explaining what propaganda is as well as the history and the role of mass media influencing the use on a much larger scale. There is also discussion on Hitler’s use and his opinion on propaganda with ties the unit together.
After the propaganda video and some discussion I would show the biography of Theodor W. Adoro https://youtu.be/4YGnPgtWhsw and explain how he was an influential socialist in Germany after WWII who made valuable contributions how he blamed the use of mass media such as the propaganda and the complacency of society to be so easily manipulated for the Holocaust to continue. I can also take this further and ask students if they can give me examples of modern day propaganda just to see how aware they are or if they are like the complacent society that Adoro describes. Are we being easily manipulated by mass media and so easily influenced by what is being projected that we lose sight on what is important? I can then show the students modern examples of propaganda such as “MODERN DAY WARFARE” which is a great example of internet propaganda http://www.skiptomalouuu.com/2011/10/modern-day-warfare.html as well as commercials and they can identify which technique is being used to persuade https://youtu.be/0eWPbr_KzN4
From the video:
1) Simple solutions (Google)
2) Name calling, card stacking, repetition (Bounty)
3) Appeal to tradition, emotional transfer (Gap)
4) wit and humor, simple solutions, small print (Boost Mobile)
5) repetition, jingle, plain folks (Clapper)
6) jingle, bandwagon (Snuggie)
7) wit and humor (Doritos)
As a writing piece students can compare the difference between the propaganda used in WWII and the propaganda used now. Students can also write about the differences between how we use or free time and if that influence our subconscious. This lesson could be a great lead in activity to reading The Wave by Todd Strassar.