I recently stumbled across a newly-published article entitled The Making of an Epic (American) Hero Fighting For Justice: Commodification, Consumption, and Intertextuality in the Floyd Landis Defense Campaign. My first thought was: interesting even though off topic. Hey — maybe its even teachable? But in fact my intuitions about how to connect actual events in life to teaching usually go astray — and I think I might have discovered (another) reason:
The time it takes for academics to study, write, and publish something about a current event is about the same amount of time it takes to enroll a cohort of students too young to remember the event.
Thirtysomethings like me blanche with terror at the realization that our students no longer remember not just the coldwar, but grunge. Even 9/11 is a from a time in their childhood when major events are hazy memories rather than adult realities. For someone who was 8 when we invaded Iraq, how much pulling power can a class really have when the Big Draw is “we’re going to get to the bottom of this WMD claim once and for all”. Even events that occurred four or five years ago — i.e. at just about the speed anthropologists can really write about them — are back in the middle-school range of traditional students.
Call it the relevance gap.