The Guardian: High Culture vs. Pop Culture

What engages students most effectively? High Culture or Pop Culture. Andrew Jones takes us on an interesting journey as he explores the issue.

By Andrew Jones

“A high culture is the self-consciousness of a society”, Roger Scruton wrote last year in the Guardian. “It contains the works of art, literature, scholarship and philosophy that establish a shared frame of reference among educated people.”

As a teacher, the last part of this statement interested me because one of the aims of schools should be nurturing “educated people”. Importantly for Scruton, an absence of “high culture is superseded by a culture of fake”. This ‘culture of fake’ consists of many things, including false ideologies, opinions and expertise, but unfortunately for me, Scruton did not really identify what a ‘low culture’ could be.

In terms of teaching, learning and the curriculum, my dilemma is relatively simple, but not trivial; should I endeavour to reference high culture in my lessons so that students can appreciate cultural life at its finest, or, in order to engage students and make learning enjoyable, should I litter my lessons with references what might be perceived as low culture, which is probably best defined as ‘pop culture’ in the context of young people.

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