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Pop Culture & Lectures: Can They Work Together?


One of the most talked about topics at university is how boring some lectures are. Students
often lose interest in a subject they were so passionate about just at the beginning of the
academic year.

It would seem like an entirely British problem to be bored of your lectures halfway into your
degree, but guess what? Folks over the pond are always cooking up new and innovative ways to
grab their students attention and inspire them to learn, and their latest venture might just knock
your socks off!

In New York, for example, a public education event is scheduled to be held in late April, where
professors recognized all over the globe, such as Michael Tuts, Adam Brandenburg and Joseph
Stiglitz, will hold lectures at bars and cafes.

The initiative has been titled as Raising the Bar and sponsored by Time Out New York and many
universities in the region. It has grown to be such a popular concept in numbers of people
expressing an interest to be a part of the whole experience, that the coming months will see the
event being launched in Boston and the West Coast too.

It’s a free event, for any Londoner interested in being there, but you must book tickets and the
idea they are pushing for here is to embed learning into pop-culture, so that students start to
perceive lectures as a fun and jovial way to be spending their time.

Apart from addressing socio-economic divides, which gives rise to discrimination, making
university and learning seem fun would also help to tackle dropout and illiteracy rates, in the
United Kingdom, so perhaps this idea is worth consideration of practicing here too.

Diverse topics are being discussed, from the rise of Greek culture to understanding how North
Koreans think, and if the organizers can manage to attain research grants then the concept will
be expanded to include lectures in subway carriages and London, too.

Although these American universities regularly hold free courses for the community, community
engagement continues to be low. Free courses aren’t a rare sight at many universities actually,
including mine, and I can speak from my personal experience as a student here, that student
numbers for such courses remains at an all-time low.

Research has shown that regular practice of good teaching habits are more effective in
motivating students, rather than a spontaneous one-off event, so as much fun as this particular
idea is, it really will sit well more in terms of the larger agenda of inspiring students, if it’s turned
into a more routine event.

During the bar-talk, the crew at the pub will be able to ask the academics questions they would
like to, after they’ve concluded with their lectures ofcourse. So another noteworthy factor of this
idea is that this might seem less threatening of a task in an entirely “pub culture” environment,
rather than sometime in a lecture theater on cold, grey and dull early mornings.

Students can only be encouraged to learn if they can personally connect with the subject
material being taught and a positive atmosphere contributes to that, as does a good rapport with
the lecturer, which again, speaking from personal experience, is more often than not, quite
difficult to strike up during lectures at university.

When students feel part of a valued community, one that is interested in learning just as much
as they are, the desire and the interest to participate in learning will increase. And if that isn’t
convincing enough, of how brilliant this idea is, then the chance to meet Nobel Prize laureates for
free at a pub in London, more than once, should take care of the rest of the job!

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