Starbucks' link to Moby Dick

Jim Eggensperger| Iona College

My experience has shown me that students often have limited historical perspectives about American history as well as a lot of other topics. Not that they aren't interested, just they have not yet experienced the world as a place of interconnections and few coincidences. My favorite example is the mermaid on the Starbucks logo. They think of it as random art. When told it connects to Moby Dick, a favorite book of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (the first mate on the Pequod was named Starbuck -- no "s") and give some background, the heavens open and enlightenment begins. Same with the Shell oil logo.

To foster the learning and emphasize the role of copy editors in putting information in perspective while ensuring the accuracy and aptness of cultural references, I use the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. There's a Web site at: http://www.bartleby.com/59/. Every other week I assign each student one topic that has some resonance and that they may run into in their reading and daily schoolwork. Each student then explores the topic and has to bring in a paragraph about it to read to class.

They like understanding more about the world around them and making connections. It has become quite a favorite activity.

It sounds like Jeopardy pedagogy, but it alerts them to information and iconic references beyond their limited frames of reference and encourages them to explore even minor references that they don't understand.

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