It's Not Shallow (Nothing Is Shallow Once You Dive In)

A gifted girl submits her topic for the Globalization Indie Project. I instantly try to convince her that "world fashion" is a shallow topic and that it confirms all of the negative stereotypes about women. I approach the conversation carefully, but inside, I am convinced I can get her to think deeper than simply clothing.

"Is that really a powerful force?" I ask.

She nods her head.

"It's basically what people wear," I tell her.

She shakes her head vehemently and then procedes to inform me on my misinformation. "It's not just what people wear. It's how they express themselves. It's their voice."

"I see your point, but have you considered other ways people express themselves?"

"What do archaeologists study? They look at the artifacts. These are cultural artifacts. What do anthropologists look at? They study the normal, cultural elements. Think about the tension regarding burqas and hijabs. Think about the way that clothing expresses culture and subculture. Think about social classes and the monolithic, globalized culture. Is it subjecting us into economic domination or is it an equalizing force? Are we becoming more free or losing our culture?"

"I . . . uh, wow. I'm sorry. I didn't see that at all."

"People tend to call things shallow only when they themselves have a shallow understanding of it," she says.

*     *     *

Recently, I've seen blog posts and tweets regarding what is and isn't shallow. Pop culture is shallow. Television is shallow. An ed tech guru says that teachers have gotten shallow and ISTE is shallow because we're not obsessed with computer code. I had a long conversation on Twitter last night regarding whether Americans are shallow and uninformed about the world.

And yet . . .

I recently read An Experiment in Criticism, by C.S. Lewis. One of the points he drove home was that it's not about the topic, but how well we think about the topic. Once we strip away pride and elitism and admit that we aren't the experts, we begin to see that systems are interconnected and the moment we think critically about those systems, the seemingly shallow becomes deep. The issue isn't content so much as how we think about content.

I could rip on sports for being shallow escapism. However, deep thought goes into sports. Spend a week listening to sports radio and you'll notice the study of narrative, the talk of relationships and on occasion the study of social and cultural trends. Before the Civil Rights movement hit the streets, black athletes were proving their merit on the ball field and white kids were idolizing black heroes.

The same goes for comic books, movies, fashion, food or pop culture. These are only shallow when we treat them as shallow; only escape when we want to escape. But think about the social, relational, cultural, and political implications and the shallow is suddenly deeper.

photo credit: maistora via photo pin cc

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler.
He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard
and the co-founder of Write About .

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