5 Reasons To Teach With Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Teaching with Taylor Swift can be a great way to create lessons and help build connections to material that students won’t ever want to, you know, shake off, says Misty L. Heggeness, an economics professor and scientist at the University of Kansas.

Heggeness recently created Swiftynomics 101, a free online course. The short course is designed to be used by teachers with their students in various subjects and examines Swift’s success and her relationship with recent Super Bowl champion NFL star Travis Kelce through an economic lens that seemingly does the impossible — makes economic theory relatable to everyone. Heggeness is also writing a book called SWIFTYNOMICS, which will explore similar topics. 

Heggeness shares tips and suggestions for how teachers can incorporate this course and why they should consider using Swift’s popularity as a jumping-off point for other subjects. If you take this advice, you can be a hero in your classroom, which is a good thing because we all know how exhausting it is always rooting for the antihero. 

Ready for it?

1. Teaching With Taylor Swift: It Can Transform Seemingly Dry Concepts Into A Love Story

As much as Heggeness loves economics she understands students don’t inherently share that fascination. “The history of economics, and economic theory, at least the way that it's taught in schools, is all about the number of widgets and supply and demand curves, and those things can be very abstract and not interesting,” she says. 

But showing students how the interplay between the NFL and Swift is an example of the theory of the firm, and looking at Swift’s career and success as a means of understanding gender economic discrimination, can make these concepts more meaningful to students. 

“For me, it's really sad if we don't take advantage of this moment to really help students find a connection between things that they care about and economic theory” Heggeness says. 

Of course, students’ passion — obsession? — with Swift can be good fodder for a wide range of topics, and the perfect way to fill any blank spaces in your curriculum.  

2. Encourage Diversity  

Using Swift to make connections with topics as varied as tech and finance for students can have a long-term impact as well. 

“One of the biggest selling points linking economic theory to pop culture moments is that you make the economics more meaningful and relatable for students," Heggeness says. "In doing that, you probably encourage a wider range of students to be interested in the field and in studying economics." 

And you don't need to calm down. "We know that economics as a field has always struggled to increase diversity within the career pipeline," she says. "One of the ways in which we can try to make some effort toward increasing diversity within the field is to teach economics in a way that feels meaningful and relatable to a wider swath of the community.”

3. It’s Easy Since Materials Already Exist 

Heggeness’ Swiftynomics 101 is available online and can be used as a whole or teachers can grab specific videos or lessons. 

“The basic version focuses on the theory of the firm, at its core level,” she says. 

The course offers more advanced lessons in the economics of discrimination through a lens of gender discrimination. “I call it 'a choose-your-own-adventure curriculum' that teachers can really just adapt to the needs of their kids and their preferences,” Heggeness says. 

The class is geared toward students from high school and up, and is an obvious fit for economics teachers, but can be used in classes covering other topics.

“The material is put together in a really relatable way that is accessible, even if people haven't studied economics,” Heggeness says. “I would encourage teachers of civics classes, or social studies classes, business classes, whatever it might be, just to explore the material.”

4. Share Your Expertise Like It's Karma 

Heggeness believes teachers are leaders in their fields that can do more to share their expertise with the world. Making pop culture connections can be a perfect, fearless way to do that, especially for teachers who are also engaged in research. 

“To the extent that we observe these types of examples in pop culture and in modern culture, and we easily see an interpretation through our own academic or theoretical lens, it feels like we owe it to the larger society to impart that knowledge,” she says. 

As a bonus, teaching in this way may not completely fulfill your wildest dreams, but can also serve as a recruitment tool for your subject area. "That's probably one of the best ways that we can get students interested in our own research, and it's definitely a good way to grow a field," Heggeness says. 

5. Have Fun

Using Swift as inspiration for teaching different subjects can simply provide happiness for both teachers and students, and you can never forget the benefit of making class more enjoyable, engaging, and dare we say, enchanted. 

“Sometimes when we're thinking about education and thinking about how we impart knowledge, we can have a tendency to get a little bit lofty with it,” Heggeness says. “I think we need to give ourselves grace and be willing to incorporate fun and novelty into the way that we teach, because at the end of the day, that not only makes us better teachers, but it makes students better learners.”  

Erik Ofgang

Erik Ofgang is Tech & Learning's senior staff writer. A journalist, author and educator, his work has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Associated Press. He currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University’s MFA program. While a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine he won a Society of Professional Journalism Award for his education reporting. He is interested in how humans learn and how technology can make that more effective.