Introducing College Freshmen to Cultural Studies

If you are a member of faculty in a cultural studies department, you may find yourself being assigned to teach an introductory course for college freshmen. This is an exciting yet also at the same time challenging assignment. For if you run the introductory course well, the freshmen are likely to develop a real interest in cultural studies. Some may go ahead to major in it. Some may even go further, to pursue cultural studies at postgraduate and doctoral level. After that, some may end up joining the same faculty – and what a joy it would be to have them as colleagues, knowing that you are the one who actually introduced them to cultural studies.

In introducing college freshmen to cultural studies, you need to:

  1. Show them that cultural studies is not an abstract field: the goal here is to get them to understand that cultural studies have real-life application, and what they learn is likely to truly help them in their future lives.
  2. Build on the students’ already existing knowledge: the objective here is to ensure that the students don’t start perceiving cultural studies as ‘hard’. If they perceive it as hard, they are likely to lose interest. You therefore need to get them to view it as something they can understand with ease.
  3. Show them the economic potential in cultural studies: many of the students are likely to be having fears on what they can do with cultural studies degrees. So it is up to you to get them to see that through cultural studies, they can broaden their minds — which can then lead to improved earnings. Some may be worried about the prospect of ending up working as, say, porters at departments like the US Postal Service. So they could be dreading the idea of having to send their resumes to the liteblue human resources portal, and then waiting, fingers crossed, for replies. Then, even after getting such jobs, they are likely to be dreading the possibility of having visit the liteblue usps portal, to get work schedules (which are likely to be very tight). So you have to reassure them. First, you need to get them to understand that they could still end up in such circumstances, even with other types of degrees. And secondly, you need to get them to understand that if they apply themselves in cultural studies, and pursue it to the highest level (like, say, the graduate or doctoral levels), it is highly unlikely that they won’t miss meaningful opportunities in the field.

How Cities Change People’s Cultures

Cities are known to change people’s cultures in huge ways. In this particular discussion, ‘culture’ simply refers to “a people’s way of life”. So what we are saying is that cities are known to change people’s ways of life in big ways. In fact, it is highly unlikely that a person who has lived in a big city will escape without having his way of life altered in some way. The big city has a way of ensuring that everybody who lives in it for a considerable amount of time ends up changing his way of life. The specific ways in which cities change people’s cultures include:

  1. By simply exposing them to other cultures: big cities tend to be ‘melting pots’ of various cultures. People who go to big cities end up encountering other cultures – different from their own. This exposure then changes their worldviews. Subsequently, their outlooks in life, and their entire cultures, are changed.
  2. By showing them weaknesses in their cultures: cities are ruthless, when it comes to exposing weaknesses in people’s cultures. You may, for instance, be coming from a spendthrift culture, where people don’t care about small savings. Then you go to a big city, and get a job at a company like, say, PepsiCo. Then you notice the pains that your colleagues at work go to, in pursuit of Mypepsico discounts. You start admiring their financial prudence, and the lengths they are willing to go to, to save that extra coin. And soon, you find yourself signing in at the Mypepsico login page, in pursuit of the same discounts. Then you know that in this small way, your spendthrift culture has been changed in favor of something else.
  3. By showing them strengths in other cultures: just as a big city shows you weaknesses in your own culture, it also shows you strengths in other cultures. You therefore find yourself having to change your culture – in a bid to find those strengths you have seen in other cultures.

Of course, all these things mostly happen at the subconscious level, without your conscious awareness.