Tuesday, 16 April 2013

3 Criticisms of UK #HipHopEd


Last month, we held the 3rd UK #HipHopEd Seminar, which, it was widely agreed was the best yet. In attendance was UK Hip-Hop legend Ty (@TyMusic ) whose recent Jazz Cafe gig was itself a lesson in Hip-Hop and featured support from fellow HipHopEders Breis (@mrbreis ) and KMT (@KMT_MAY ) amongst others.

To get a sense of how our Hip-Hop Education conversations are progressing, please read this excellent write up by @unseenflirt

Whilst response to the post by UnseenFlirt has been overwhelmingly positive, there have also been a few criticisms of our Hip-Hop Education work. Below I list 3 such criticisms and offer a brief response to each.

1. "Education should not be about students' own lives but rather about extending their horizons."

I think the 'own lives' vs 'wider culture' issue is a false dichotomy. Many would argue that good learners make connections between these two realms and that Hip-Hop Education is one of many approaches that can help learners to do this. When I used lyrics from Immortal Technique withstudents, they were able to draw links with Marx's historical analysis and Plato's simile of the cave, before reflecting upon the choices that were afforded them in their own lives. Akala's Hip-Hop Shakespeare work encourages students to make connections between the language, concepts and themes in two seemingly disparate art forms. The implicit message in some mainstream education that students bring little of cultural value to the educational encounter is often cited as a reason for 'disengagement'. Nobody at our UK HipHopEd seminar suggested that Hip-Hop be the sole content or method for instruction.

2. "Allowing slang in the classroom will be detrimental to students' language development."

I think concerns about literacy development rest on a second false dichotomy, namely 'Standard vs Non-standard English'. A pedagogy that accepts and interrogates 'Englishes' can not only teach the language of power but also can place it in a socio-historical context. There is a body of research that supports the claim that explicitly discussing 'code-switching' with students can not only aid the learning of standard forms of a language but also have additional broader benefits related to valuing students and their families and communities.

For more on the subject of 'Englishes' have a read of this paper by Dr David E Kirkland, who some of us heard speak at the Institute of Education, London last year.

3. "Hip-Hop Education is the latest desperate attempt to be 'down with the kids'".

Finally, the  'down with the kids' argument, whilst a familiar one, quite possibly betrays a particular vision of an ideal educator. Those of us engaged in Hip-Hop Education are immersed in, or at least very familiar with Hip-Hop culture having grown up with it. We recognise its educative potential and see that even modern, negative aspects of it can be analysed to help students make sense of the wider world. To us, and to many of our students, it makes far more sense for Hip-Hop to be included in the classroom rather than excluded.

Clearly there's more to say on all 3 points - it's quite likely we'll discuss one or all of them at the next UK #HipHopEd seminar! If you'd like to participate in the next seminar, let me know via comments of twitter! @rapclassroom

*The UK #HipHopEd Seminar Series is a space for Hip-Hop Educators.
Artists, Teachers, Activists and Academics to come together to present, discuss, support and challenge each other, in a spirit of democratic learning.

UK #HipHopEd was recently featured on BBC1Xtra's 'When Words Collide', and Chris Emdin, our key-note speaker at Seminar 1 has been featured in the British press for his science education work with GZA.

Future plans discussed include a book, blog and open conference.

In Seminar 1, we had a chance to share our routes into Hip-Hop Education however we might define it.
In Seminar 2, we began to identify key principles and practices in our work.
In Seminar 3 we began to consider 3 key questions:
1. What do we do and why do we do it?
2. What are the main criticisms of Hip-Hop Education and how do we respond to them?
3. What would a UKHipHopEd Manifesto look like?

Seminar 4 is scheduled to take place in June 2013 in London. If you're interested in participating, hit me up! @rapclassroom