11 November 2011

Allusions and Shared Culture

In my previous posting, I discussed an allusion to 42, and the fact that none of my students in Brunei have heard of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I think is sad.

In my year one class at UBD, I use the opening pages to 1984 by George Orwell as a text for grammatical analysis, and very few of my students have heard of that either. I find this also rather disappointing.

But maybe texts such as Hitchhiker and 1984 are now dated. Maybe I should not be expecting young people today to be familiar with the books that were fashionable when I was younger. Maybe there is a whole range of books and films that they all know and can refer to, using allusions that I would presumably miss.

But are there? First, my students don't seem to read too much, so I'm not sure there are too many books that most of them have read.

But what about films and TV shows? Are there films and shows that they have all watched, so they can make subtle references to them in the expectation that their classmates will pick up the allusions?

My impression is that there is no such shared culture. And the reason for that is that people here (and elsewhere) generally watch satellite TV where there are a huge range of programmes to choose between. So you don't get the situtation where you might assume that lots of people are watching the same shows as you (as was the case when I was young, with Doctor Who or Top of the Pops and things like that).

In many ways, the wealth of material that different people can gain access to, via satellite TV or the Internet, is something we should celebrate, so the lack of a shared culture among young people is just a reflection of the diverse material they can choose from. Yet, I still feel it is a pity.

But perhaps this is just an old fogey like me whingeing on once again about "the good old days"!