The Classroom

Popular Culture in the Philosophy Classroom: A Modest Defense

Gregory Bassham
Michael W. Austin

An effective hook: As educational theorists from Rousseau to Dewey to contemporary constructivists have emphasized, teaching is most effective when it connects with what students know and care about. Students are more engaged when they are studying materials they find interesting and relevant, and they learn more quickly and more deeply when they can fit what they are learning into a framework of existing knowledge. Today’s students live in a veritable Platonic Cave of popular culture, flickering with digital shadows and abuzz with electronic chatter. Students are often keenly interested and amazingly knowledgeable (much more than they should be) about various aspects of popular culture. By tapping into these interests, pop philosophy can serve as a springboard to serious philosophical reflection. Moreover, the memorableness of such examples can promote long-term learning. As Fordham University student Alexandra Fernandes said after taking a course on fantasy and philosophy, “What really matters in an education is what you walk away with, what resonates with a student and what they retain for the rest of their lives. If using these modern sources creates a better technique of retention, why not use them?”

Read the full article at the American Philosophical Association’s website.

Dr. Gregory House perfectly characterizes the anxiety and conflict within people and relationships as theorized by Jean Paul Sartre in Being and Nothingness. Every episode of Heroes is an example of what would happen when “heroes” break the social contract in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. It’s no coincidence that Lost has a character named John Locke aptly named after the philosopher of the same name. Pop culture and philosophy go hand-in-hand and this series can bring pop culture into your classroom!

Are you interested in incorporating the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series into your syllabus? Are you looking for tips on how to integrate these books into your courses? Here are the resources you need to help you pair South Park and Philosophy and Plato’s dialogues, Batman and Philosophy and virtue ethics.

Please check back frequently as we add more free resources to help you incorporate these books into your curriculum. If you’re already using these books in your classroom, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at and tell us what your experience has been.

1118386566South Park and Philosophy: You Know, I Learned Something Today

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270301_cover.inddBatman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul

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