MOCHE/ILCHE 2017: Popular Culture as Historical Context: Using Mass Media Sources to Teach American History

Presenter: Benjamin Leff, University Laboratory High School, Springfield, IL

What can students learn about 1950s gender ideology by watching “I Love Lucy”? About the rise of conservatism by watching “Rocky”? About race relations by listening to “Public Enemy”? Using popular culture isn’t merely a “fun” way to study history. It can be an important way for students to hone sophisticated historical thinking skills by performing complex intellectual labor: analyzing popular culture texts and linking them to their historical context. This session will focus on using popular culture to illuminate American history, as well as provide practical guidance for building lessons and units around mass media sources.