What Teachers and Parents Can Learn From Korean Hip Hop

4 Oct

There’s no hotter cultural phenomenon that Psy’s Gangnam Style right now. We’re in the centre of the passing cultural storm as everyone (yes, even edubloggers) try to catch a little of the reflected glory from everyone’s favourite hit song.

The video for Gangnam Style is now the most “liked’ video on the history of Youtube  (359,713,166 likes as I’m writing this). The performer Psy has appeared on Jimmy Kimmel (singing/rapping in Korean no less) and has the number 1 pop single around the world. And of course we’re in the midst of that now familiar cultural marker, the endless string of parody videos. Yesterday, in the staff room, I watched teachers listening to the song on their phones :)

The bigger question for educators and parents is what are we to make of all this. If you can find someone who predicted we’d be swooning over Korean Hip Hop this fall I’d like to pick their brains about the stock market.

Here are a few ‘takeaways’ from The Gangnam Style Phenomenon for parents and educators:

  1. Popular Culture is Still Youth Culture: For the last 60 years it’s been teens and those in their early 20’s that drive popular culture and that’s still true. My teen sons knew about Gangnam Style’s appeal long before I did. I saw the video first, but didn’t really know what it was or what it would become. They knew when they saw it and were talking about it with their friends (and by talking I mean skyping & texting of course).
  2. Youth Culture is Global: Teens are less concerned with where someone is from and more interested in how appealing their ideas are. If the ideas are good they want them, no matter the source. Technology allows this to easily happen. Anyone can instantly connect to any part of the world, any subculture or any generation. It’s a meritocracy of ideas facilitated by the internet.
  3. Unique is Good: In digital culture anyone can easily copy anything. Making or liking something unique and different is valued. Creativity is king. Teens would rather see something unique than a really good copy of something ‘old’.
  4. The Power of the Remix: Technology allows content from any source to be personalized. Your Facebook timeline doesn’t look anything like mine. People increasingly using this power to take existing content and remix it to make it relevant and personal and then share it. Why sit and watch Gangnam Style when you can remake it with you and friends as the stars?
  5. Sharing Matters: YouTube “likes” have driven the popularity of Gangnam Style and other viral YouTube hits before them (“Call Me Maybe” anyone?). Participation in online communities and expressing your opinion is increasingly the way we determine what matters. The Olympics and The US Presidential debate tout the amount of twitter traffic their events generate. Our students and children need to be able to successfully navigate this to make sure their opinions and thoughts are heard. If they are not participating on-line they don’t exist.
  • Note: I wonder what happens to our democratic “liking” model of determining worth when billions of rural Indians and Chinese come on-line and start expressing their “likes”‘. Will Bollywood movies be winning all the Academy Awards? Will our teens listen to pop songs in Mandarin & Cantonese on their iPods? Or will we find another system?

5 Responses to “What Teachers and Parents Can Learn From Korean Hip Hop”

  1. Anthony Marco October 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Perhaps most important is that Psy has chosen to not pursue any copyright claims: “One of Psy’s cannier moves has apparently been to waive copyright on ‘Gangnam Style’ so that anybody can use the music and the video as they like.” http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121002/11573120572/gangnam-style-shows-what-can-happen-when-you-dont-lean-copyright.shtml

  2. Ms Fawcett October 14, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    This reflection has me thinking. Thanks for putting the success of this viral video into context. I really enjoyed reading this! We can only hope that along with the “fun”, youth will also utilize the social commentary to look critically at the world & themselves & their values with respect to materialism/consumerism.

    • ballacheybears October 14, 2012 at 10:26 am #

      Thanks Michelle. My Korean is weak (non-existent) but from what I understand Psy is making fun of the consumerism of Gangnam in the song. He is trying to be “Gangnam” and keeps getting it wrong. He can’t dance properly, he can’t ride horses, he’s in the hot springs with the old men, etc. Might be an interesting way to look at it with students. “What’s it about?” now here is what Psy was trying to say. Have them contrast and reflect.

      • Ms Fawcett October 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

        Yes, that is what I was trying to say — given the underlying message (which I understand), we can hopefully lead students to contrasting and reflecting on it. It’s a great piece of media of critical literacy! :)


  1. Staff Picks: Learning Design, Digital Education - Getting Smart by Getting Smart Staff - edchat, EdTech | Getting Smart - August 21, 2013

    […] Caroline Picks “What Teachers and Parents Can Learn From Korean Hip Hop“ […]

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