Rethinking Popular Culture and Media


“This superb collection is based on the editors belief that popular culture, that it is a place where young people’s identities are both expressed and shaped by forces beyond their control. The starting point of any defense and reaction to this environment is critical reflection. The essays collected here will provide teachers and educators with an invaluable resource to think creatively about their own pedagogical activities in the classroom. Should be required reading for anyone dealing with issues of young people, media and popular culture.”

~ Sut Jhally

Professor of Communication, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Founder and Executive Director, Media Education Foundation

“Rethinking Popular Culture and Media is essential reading for all educators. Its gripping essays are written by teachers courageously helping students of all ages grapple with our media-saturated, commercially driven society. Their passion and experiences provide fodder, hope, and roadmaps for anyone committed to using the classroom to help children think critically and live creatively.”

~ Susan Linn

Harvard Medical School, Co-founder and Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, author of Consuming Kids: the Hostile Takeover of Childhood (New Press).


RPCM is recipient of a Skipping Stones magazine HONOR AWARD! The award recognized exception contributions to children’s literature.


Rethinking Popular Culture and Media is a provocative collection of articles drawn from Rethinking Schools magazine. It begins with the idea that the “popular” in classrooms and in the everyday lives of teachers and students is fundamentally political. This anthology includes outstanding articles by elementary and secondary public school teachers, scholars, and activists who examine how and what popular toys, books, films, music, and other media “teach.” These thoughtful essays offer strong conceptual critiques and practical pedagogical strategies for educators at every level to engage with the popular.

Rethinking Popular Culture and Media features over 45 articles, divided into 6 sections:

  1. Study the Relationship Between Corporations and Schooling

  2. Critique How Popular Culture and Media Frame the Parameters of Historical Events and Actors

  3. Examine the Connections Between Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality and Social Histories in Popular Culture and Media

  4. View and Analyze Representations of Teachers, Students and Schools

  5. Take Action for a Just Society

  6. Use Popular Culture and Media to Transgress

Rethinking Schools is a critical resource for educators who are committed to fostering the vision that public schooling is central to the creation of a caring, informed, and equitable society. It is a non-profit organization run by a small paid staff, an amazing team of volunteer editors and dedicated contributors.

It may be important for you to know that as editors of this text, neither Beth nor I receive any royalties nor other remuneration from sales. All funds go back into supporting the work of Rethinking Schools.


"Finally a text that tackles issues in pop culture and media by encouraging teachers to help students navigate the system and demonstrates what could happen if we built up critically literate masses. Finally, a group of teachers are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a fight against selling our children’s minds to the highest bidder. Finally."

Reagan J. Kaufman

Multicultural Perspectives, August 2012

Kaufman, R.J. (2012). Neutral education? A review of Rethinking Popular Culture and Media,

Multicultural Perspectives, 14(3), 175-176.

This article [“Save the Muslim Girl!” featured in RPCM] by Özlem Sensoy and Elizabeth Marshall critically examines the depiction of Muslim girls as victims in Western young adult literature and offers alternative strategies to help students think through the issues.”

Selected for the PBS documentary The Light in Her Eyes, Recommended Readings List

“[T]he book rightly focuses a good deal of its attention on corporate control, on popular films, toys, and books, and on issues surrounding violence, racism, class relationships, sex/gender, and similar crucial areas. This enables readers to place the interventions that also form a key part of the book into their larger framework. In this way, critical understanding is joined with critical educational practices in clear and organic ways.”

Michael W. Apple

Full review: Rethinking education, rethinking culture, rethinking media.

Educational Policy, 26, 339-346

Although Rethinking Schools is decidedly left-wing, the teachers described in these pieces do not seem interested in shoving a particular viewpoint down anybody’s throat. Even when their students are encouraged to take action, these actions are based on the students’ own interpretations and views. For the most part, the authors appear to be earnestly trying to encourage children, their parents, and their teachers to identify and analyze the values and assumptions that undergird youth advertising and entertainment.”

Holly Yettick

Full review at: Teachers College Record, Book Reviews, May 21, 2012

‎"As a teacher in training myself, I found these articles invaluable for their authenticity: there was no sugar-coating of the difficulties involved, nor were the tones of the articles dry or academic. It’s the real deal."

Ben Babcock

Full review at: Good Reads, April 2012

This book is comprehensive and is a must-have for anyone who wants to create a more critical curriculum...”

Tasha Tropp Laman

Full review at: Language Arts, 89(4), pp 267-269, March 2012

A journal of the National Council of Teachers of English

“...[w]e as educators, parents, and concerned citizens have a responsibility and an opportunity to ensure that our youth are informed choicemakers, rather than unconscious consumers. Books like Rethinking Popular Culture and Media are an important part of that strategy.”

Humane Connection: Living, Learning, and Teaching for a Better World

September 26, 2011

“And we thought we had our work cut out for us as teachers of pre-pubescent tweens and teens. After reading Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, we discovered just how much media saturation and corporate influences have stacked the cards against us.”

Eoin Dempsey, Amanda Wesolek, and Samuel Reed
The Notebook, Philadelphia Public Schools, July 19, 2011

“Rethinking Popular Culture and Media is an extraordinarily valuable resource for educators. It compiles dozens of essays about a wide variety of media literacy topics, written for and by teachers, offering useful insights and suggesting practical means of helping youth and adults “reflect on aspects of life that they may just take for granted.”...The book would make a valuable addition to the libraries of educators of all ages.”

Shari Graydon, Informed Opinions, June 6, 2011

A well-edited book, the seriousness and scope of the subject matter is handled well by authors and educators who are experts in their fields.”

Penny Hastings, Foreword Reviews, March 29, 2011

“Teaching media studies courses is still not for the faint of heart. There are so many issues to cover, so many areas that require extensive planning and preparation. Rethinking Popular Culture and Media will give teachers a chance to see how others have implemented classroom lessons that teach about social activism and empowerment. The book proves we have come a long way since the mid-1980’s. As a field of study, media literacy or media studies still has a long way to go, but this book will serve as a signpost to get us further along our path. If you are a teacher of media studies, you will have to feel a kinship with some of these authors; it is nice to know there are so many other “provocateurs” out there.” 

Mike Gange, media literacy educator

blogger, Mr. Media April 26, 2011