Gupta: Learn your pop culture, too

By Ragini Grace Gupta

“Guido.”

The term comes up a lot in the sociology class I am taking… “Guido.”

The term comes up a lot in the sociology class I am taking this semester. When talking about culture and socialization, my professor’s primary example for the entire lecture was “guidos.” Up until a month and a half ago, I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t know what the term meant. I didn’t know that it had been made popular by “Jersey Shore” and worse, I didn’t understand the example and hence the topic at hand.

I’ll admit I’m not that great with pop culture. There are plenty of times I’ve been in a conversation with friends and didn’t understand the references they were making. But the notion that I was slightly out of touch never came to me while in class. It was always outside the classroom.

This semester was really a smack in the face. After being told by my statistics professor that I had basically been “living under a rock” because I didn’t know of the controversy surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, I felt some alarm at my unintentional disconnect. In any other situation, the fact that I don’t know pop culture happenings would be at most a cause for some social embarrassment and a mental note to pay more attention to stuff going on. But when not knowing things puts me at a disadvantage in the classroom, the feeling isn’t so passive.

When lecturing about stereotypes and image, my professor used a cornerstone example of the “Jersey Shore” culture: hairstyle, fashion sense, speech, etc. I was pretty lost during that lecture. I mean, I understood the concepts he was discussing from the textbook, but there is a reason why professors use more genereal examples. Plus, when he said “guido” for the first time there were quite a few laughs from my fellow students. I was confused — and I don’t like missing out on an opportunity to laugh.

When I finally watched a few episodes of “Jersey Shore,” out of boredom one weekend, it clicked. Everything my professor had said suddenly made perfect sense. Luckily, he used the same example a few times later and for each subsequent reference, I was on board.

When my statistics professor began explaining the types of errors associated with hypothesis testing, one of the very first things he talked about was Ben’s alleged transgression. This was worse than the example in sociology. I didn’t know anything about hypothesis training, and this example was how my professor was going to explain testing errors? So while my brain wandered off trying to find some mental clue as to who “Ben” was and awaiting another verbal clue from my professor, I was not paying attention to the actual topic at hand — hypothesis testing. If I had known that Ben Roethlisberger was the Steelers quarterback and he had recently been accused of sexual assault, I could’ve focused on the important stuff which was the point of the Steelers reference anyway.

Staying up to date with pop culture is about more than just being socially fit, it comes in handy in education too. I’m glad I’ve realized that now. When I was in high school I listened to NPR on the way to school so I’d be up to date with happenings for my history class. Granted, I didn’t know about the latest celebrity gossip, but I did know when Germany’s became the third largest economy. In college, professors are more attuned to their students, which is actually better for everybody — including me, now that I’ve watched a few episodes of “Jersey Shore.”

So what does this all mean? Remember in elementary school we used to get excited to write assignments in our planners as, “have fun,” or “get a good night’s sleep”? Guess what? You can do that again. Since watching “Jersey Shore” and ESPN now contribute to our education, as does listening to 96.1 KISSFM and frequenting the movie theater, we can now add these activities in our planners as part of our “homework.” Not only will familiarity with these things help solidify concepts by giving us something real to relate them to, they will also prevent the confusion that comes from foreign examples in lecture. Plus doing these things is fun: I’ll admit watching “Jersey Shore” was quite entertaining.

So now when I watch “Gossip Girl,” or see the next comedy in the theater instead of doing my homework or studying for an exam, I will remind myself that I am not actually neglecting my coursework, but rather investing in it.

E-mail Ragini your thoughts at [email protected]