What if Southeast Asia has its own version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire”? (and my simple joys as a Professor)

Cover photo was from a random Valentine’s Day class photo in another university I used to teach in because doing screenshots for class photos over Zoom for my recent classes has always been a depressing idea to me.

As a preliminary assignment before discussing the different forms of Political Art that exists in Southeast Asia for my elective class, I came up with this *more or less brilliant* idea to ask my students to compose a song. After all, what made them interested to enrol in this elective is because they’re very much inclined into the arts (just like *ahem* their Professor).


Simple. I asked my students to come up with a Southeast Asian edition of the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel.

Usually, I would see verbal and non-verbal reactions from students whenever I discuss assignments to them. Some students will show excitement in their eyes, some would frown, some would already assume they can’t do it and saw “awww”, and of course there will always be some who don’t pay attention and will ask about everything later over email or something.

Damn, I miss face to face teaching. All I get these days are party poppers and like emoji reactions.

The slide in my deck where I presented their first assignment yay!

But anyhoo, before asking them to do this assignment, I had to check the internet if there is an existing kind of content, because I want my students to be as original as possible.

Upon checking, there’s actually none! But there are a couple of covers of the song with different verses, but still focused on the United States current events and the world affairs.

However, I actually found a book on Cambodian Politics entitled “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, which was quite new to me (if I’m not mistaken), because I wrote a paper about Hun Sen and the Cambodian Democracy in grad school but I can’t remember reading this. Nonetheless, this is an addition to my long list of academic books to read on Southeast Asian politics yay!

We Didn’t Start the Fire (Southeast Asian Edition)

I just couldn’t help but feel very ecstatic as to how excellent the quality of the outputs of my students were and it goes to show that they really enjoyed the process of doing it. Like I always tell my students, “As long as I see you’re enjoying the process of learning all the lessons here in our program, my job here is done.”

While I can’t share everything they have made, allow me to share some of the album art they came up with, as well as selected lyrics from two groups. There was actually one student who also loved the song so much that he even submitted a cover of the song, but requested to keep it between the two of us. How impressive was that, right. To be honest, I never felt this fulfilled in my 10 years of teaching.

Full credits to my students. None of these are mine.

Oh, how I love teaching about Southeast Asia. I think I’m gonna grow old and/or die in this career.

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