We Do Need an Education: Teaching Pink Floyd: The Wall

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Having recently passed its thirty-fifth anniversary, Pink Floyd's film Pink Floyd: The Wall has established itself both as a cult classic and historical source.1 Its age allows scholars the necessary hindsight to examine the film in its historical context: a film that uses live action, graphic art, and progressive rock music to depict the post-World War II twentieth century through the eyes of disillusioned postwar Anglo-American youth.2 At the same time, the film provides multiple entry points for discussions of global post-World War II youth angst, social movements, and political challenges marked by the immediate postwar decades (1945 through the fifties), the progressive "Global Sixties," the conservative backlash by Conservative politicians such as Margaret Thatcher, and Cold War tensions in the 1970s and early 1980s.3 The film makes clear references to social and identity movements related to youth and gender (masculine and feminine), the rise and fall of authoritarian systems, and makes more subtle references to issues of empire, race, and decolonization throughout these postwar decades. In this light, the film can be used to open discussions to myriad postwar global issues including (male) subcultures, women's liberation, civil rights, political trends, and questions about identity and performative actions—in this case through mass media and popular culture.4 The Wall, both the film and its music, continue to resonate around the world. Pink Floyd's Roger Waters' 2010–2013 global The Wall Live tour and his current global Us + Them tour means new global audiences, including twenty-first century youth and adults, may be familiar with Roger Waters, his music, and elements of The Wall album and film. Many, however, could benefit from examining the film in its historical context and meaning, especially as the iconic The Wallimage has been misappropriated—most recently by US Trump supporters and others as imagery and sound for Trump's plans for a US-Mexico border wall.5 This article, focused on The Wall (film), describes our approach to using film—and the special case of using The Wall—in the history classroom with emphasis on providing that historical context and analysis of the film for college instructors and students to deepen their understanding of why and how The Wall can—and should—be used as a historical source.

Publication Title

World History Connected





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open access

Open Access Status

OA Journal

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