Jun 20, 2019
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Turning passive TV viewing off

As the end credits of “All In the Family” roll, a student discussion about Archie Bunker follows, leading to a deeper conversation about racism and stereotypes.

Welcome to Mass Communication and Journalism 163, Radio and Television in Popular Culture.

“This class is never boring. Every day is a new creation,” instructor Mary Husain said.

The class, which focuses mainly on popular television throughout time, used to be an upper division general education course.

Currently an MCJ elective, there is more to the class than simply watching television.

“I thought we would just be watching TV, but it surprised me. It’s a very eclectic group of students, everybody’s attentive and part of the discussions,” said junior Christa Williams.

Williams, an MCJ major focusing on digital media, chose to take the class because she had taken a class previously taught by Husain and wanted a breath of fresh air. Junior Augie Blancas agreed that it was Husain’s teaching style that kept the class interesting.

“This class is a breather from the rest of my other classes for 50 minutes,” said Blancas, an MCJ major focusing on advertising. “It’s enlightening. I get to study classic TV shows and analyze them and it’s fun.”

In her three years in the MCJ department, this is Husain’s first semester teaching the class. Though always fascinated by pop culture, Husain was unsure what to expect with course planning and teaching the class itself.

“I looked at TV ratings, ‘significant’ shows –– old and new, ones with substantive journal articles to go with it,” Husain explained. Since it is her first time teaching the class, she prefers to say, “we’re all learning together.”

Though the class focuses on watching television, the real learning begins during discussion of the shows watched in class.

“I wanted to teach the class in an alternative format,” Husain said.

She has her students post analyses of shows viewed in class on Blackboard and reply to fellow classmates ideas, a starting point for class discussion.

“Learning is more meaningful when it comes from the students,” Husain said of her goal for student discussion and critical thinking.

Through the weekly Blackboard analysis posts, Sarah Peterson said she is reading and writing more for this class than most of her other classes. Peterson, an MCJ major focusing on print journalism, said that all of the work has taught her to be more aware of the media’s influence.

“I have a better understanding of TV genres and analysis and I’m watching shows I’ve never watched before,” Peterson said.

Both Blancas and Williams agree that their views of television have changed because of this class.

“I look at TV from a different point of view and I watch more to see how TV is deceiving us with its product placement,” Blancas said.

“This class has taught me how to critique what I watch. TV is a platform for discussion and I think that’s what this class is about,” Williams said about the in-class discussion on “All In the Family,” Archie Bunker’s racist rants and whether or not the show encouraged bigotry.

As for what the future of television in pop culture holds, both students and instructor are looking forward to more television viewing and in-depth conversations about underlying themes and theories.

And maybe a surprise or two.

“As a teacher, I hope there are always surprises,” Husain said. “Stay tuned.”

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