Stevie Rudak | January 26, 2023
The Teachings of Queen B
English education professor uses music videos by Beyoncé and other artists to educate students about political protests.
Henry “Cody” Miller, Assistant Professor of English Education, recently co-published an article based on Beyoncé’s song “Freedom,” which addresses many contemporary issues such as anti-Black racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Black womanhood.
Miller and the co-authors all share a similar admiration for Beyoncé’s music, as well as her engagement in social/political conversations. The work of Black women public intellectuals who write about music, such as Brittany Spanos and Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, inspired how Miller and the co-authors engaged with Beyoncé’s work.
“We wanted to write something about Beyoncé in schools, but we weren’t sure what,” said Miller.
“One thing I really want students to come away with is all the media they consume contains messages and ideas about the world, politics, and public life whether intentional or not.”
Henry “Cody” Miller
Throughout the publication, Miller and co-authors bring attention to teaching methods that expand beyond print-based texts. They suggest that today’s educators can properly teach relevant topics by tuning in to the social and political elements of music videos. To successfully incorporate music videos into the classroom, Miller suggests that educators treat them just as they would any other literature.
“Students are always engaging in media content that contains messages and ideas about the world,” said Miller. “It’s smart to connect that to what we’re teaching.”
Miller’s inspiration for this teaching style was sparked by his undergraduate thesis, where he investigated the history of politics and how music artists use their platforms. Miller found that artists like Lady Gaga and Carrie Underwood had used their music talents to address the Iraq War in the early 2000s. These examples display how celebrities can help raise awareness to different topics or initiatives using their wide fan-base.
Nowadays, at the higher-ed level, teaching music videos is common for some disciplines including Communications and Sociology.
“One thing I really want students to come away with is all the media they consume contains messages and ideas about the world, politics, and public life whether intentional or not,” Miller shared. “Making connections between texts is a really important life skill.”
Walking away from his courses, Miller hopes students harness the ability to mindfully digest different media forms.
“I really want students to have a more discerning approach to popular media and culture,” said Miller.