Pop some popcorn and ease into Sevan Terzian’s new book on American education in popular media

Sevan Terzian with his latest book, featuring several UF education alumni contributors

Sevan Terzian with his latest book, featuring several UF education alumni contributors

What iconic character types spring to mind when you think of your school days: Playground bully or rope-jumping queen? Jocks and cheerleaders? Freaks and geeks? Despotic principal? Inspirational teacher or professor?

Are your most vivid school memories totally of your own experiences, or might they be shaped—at least partly—by the powerful media images depicting school in literature, film, television and music?

Well, “make some popcorn, find your favorite chair, and ease into this delightful collection of essays that charts the historical evolution of popular portrayals of American schooling.”

That is the advice of Benjamin Justice, associate professor of education and history at Rutgers University, in his review of a newly published volume co-edited by Sevan G. Terzian, an associate professor and director of graduate studies in teaching and learning at the University of Florida College of Education. The book also features essays by several other UF-educated scholars.

In the book, “American Education in Popular Media: From the Blackboard to the Silver Screen,” co-editors Terzian and Patrick A. Ryan, a 2008 UF graduate in curriculum and instruction/English education and now an education professor at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., examine how popular media have represented schooling in the United States over the course of the 20th century.

So, what’s your favorite flick, TV show, or book depicting the schooling life? Dead Poet’s Society? To Sir With Love? Dangerous Minds? Beavis and Butthead? Rock and Roll High School? Glee? How about Catcher in the Rye or the Saturday Evening Post?

You’ll read about these and so many other familiar depictions in American Education in Popular Media. But the 217-page volume is more than a fun media stroll down School Days Memory Lane. The 10 essays collected and edited by Terzian and Ryan explore prevalent portrayals of students and professional educators while addressing contested purposes of schooling in American life.

But keep the popcorn close by. It’s a fun read.

Readers, beware, though. “This book will sneak up on you,” opines reviewer Donald Warren, professor emeritus in education history and policy at Indiana University. “The no-holds-barred historical examination of American education helps us remember and rethink—after all, we all went to school. And it exposes in provocative detail the durable imprint of media on the education of the public.”

“This book project originated from research seminars and collaborations with Ph.D. students in our School of Teaching & Learning whose interest in the educative dimensions of American popular culture continued to grow,” Terzian said. “They envisioned a thematically coherent volume of essays, and we are pleased with the result.”

Co-editors Terzian and Ryan also teamed up on the book’s opening essay on Popular Media Representations of American Schooling from the Past, and Ryan also wrote a chapter on The Sacrificial Image of the Teacher in Popular Media, 1945-59.

Three other essays were penned by UF doctoral graduates in curriculum and instruction, as follows:

  • Andrew L. Grunzke (PhD ’07, specializing in foundations of education), now an associate professor at Mercer University, writes on The Importance of Teaching Ernest: The Fool Goes Back to School in Television and Film Comedies in the Late Twentieth Century;
  • Bob Dahlgren (’08, social studies education in 2008), an associate professor of social studies education and chair of curriculum and instruction at the State University of New York at Fredonia, writes on Prosaic, Perfunctory Pedagogy: Representations of Social Studies Teachers and Teaching in 1970s and 1980s Movies;
  • Amy Martinelli (PhD ‘15, social foundations of education) writes on Fears on Film: Representations of Juvenile Delinquency in Educational Media in Mid-Twentieth Century America; she now is an adjunct lecturer in communication studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Other contributors include leading education scholars Kate Rousmaniere (Miami University of Ohio), Dan Perlstein (UC Berkeley) and Dan Clark (Indiana State University), and emerging education history scholars Heather Weaver (University of Sydney, Australia) and Michelle Morgan (Missouri State University).

American Education in Popular Media Is published by Palgrave Macmillan, a global academic publisher and part of Macmillan Science and Education, and can be purchased in hardcover or e-book on the publisher’s website.

   SOURCE: Sevan Terzian, UF College of Education; 352-273-4216; sterzian@coe.ufl.edu;
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, Director, COE News & Communications, UF College of Education;352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;