Post-print of Edelheim, J R 2009, 'With the Simpsons as tour guides: how popular culture sources can enhance the student experience in a university tourism unit. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 113–119.
University education is, at times, claimed to be overly theoretical and disconnected from the reality for which it is preparing students. The disconnection of theory from practice might have a negative impact on students’ learning experiences if it leads to a view of university education as impractical and abstract, rather than current and applicable to work–life situations. A pedagogical method aimed at bringing examples from workplaces and society in general, to theory lectures, is to use different media sources, such as magazines, music, television or films. These can highlight how theory contextualises, explains and improves practice.The aim of this article is to investigate how the animated TV series, The Simpsons, can be fruitfully used to illuminate tourism practices in a theoretical first-year tourism university unit. The method used in the article is to present an example illustrated by educational constructivism. The major finding is that by analysing The Simpsons as a key to popular culture and how the series is part of the formation of social perceptions of tourism in the public domain, students learn to see why it is important to use theories when managing tourism businesses.