Does Pop Culture Belong in Higher Ed?

Pop culture is increasingly seen as a legitimate area of study in U.S. colleges and universities. But should watching Lady Gaga music videos really count as coursework? That is the question being debated at many higher ed institutions throughout the country.

Pop Culture Invades the College Classroom

Students at the University of Virginia can take a course in which they listen to the songs and watch the music videos of Lady Gaga. But the class isn’t meant for entertainment. ‘GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender and Identity’ covers the title topics while examining the enigmatic performer’s influence in culture. This course is by no means an outlier: Many other U.S. colleges have classes that feature Lady Gaga, including Wake Forest, Arizona State and the University of South Carolina.

And Lady Gaga is not the only pop culture icon to make the crossover to academia. Many performers, films and television shows have been made the subject of college courses. Georgetown has a class called ‘Philosophy and Star Trek,’ and Yale features ‘Christian Theology and Harry Potter.’ Middlebury College offers ‘Watching The Wire,’ and MIT has a course called ‘American Pro Wrestling.’ Lil’ Kim, Twilight, 2Pac, The Simpsons, Bruce Springsteen and South Park are only some of the other pop culture phenomena to get their own classes.

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