Hip Hop and Education -Educating Through Music
By: Sharath Cherian
"Hip hop is inherently political, the language is political. It uses language as a weapon -- not a weapon to violate or not a weapon to offend, but a weapon that pushes the envelope that provokes people, makes people think." - Todd Boyd, Professor University of Southern California's School of Cinema-television
It's true what they say about music -- it is a universal language. Regardless of where people are from or what language they speak, music that has universal appeal can do more than entertain. It can bring people together, get people to think and some cases provide a soundtrack for change. Never has his become more present than in the music of hip hop that went from an expressive combination of lyrics and rhythm to a lifestyle and culture that has permeated popular society.
More than just a beat
As stated above the "hip hop" professor, Todd Boyd, hip hop is far more than just clever rhymes and banging beats. It has the potential to educate. Boyd is one of the many educators blazing the trail that of bringing hip hop to education purporting that as a learning tool, it's very powerful. Take for example the organization H2ED (Hip Hop Education). Their formula of T.O.P.S.Y (teachers, organizations, parents, social workers and youth) seeks to involve the adults and leaders in the community to band together focus educating the youth using things that they can relate to.
This Is How They Do It
According to their mission, "H2Ed is to serve as a resource for educators and those committed to helping children succeed in school by using the power of hip-hop culture as a learning tool. This is achieved by compiling and maintaining a comprehensive list of educational resources, products and services available for educators. By providing important networking opportunities and by advocating on both the institutional and grassroots levels for educational reform." (About H2ED, www.h2ed.net)
The common misunderstanding or misconception is that you walk into a classroom and there is a hip hop beat blaring while a teacher attempts to rhyme the key points of American history. While that my seem like a clever and entertaining idea for Hollywood films it's a hackneyed attempt at best to incorporate what hip hop can teach. Consider the basic tenets of recording, producing and distributing an independently produced hip hop CD. Within this one projecct.
* Basic Business Training
* Project Follow Through
* Problem Solving
* Social skills necessary for meeting goals
* Team Building
(The DJ Project, By Dave Kim, Bay Guardian, San Francisco)
Involving youth in a project of this nature is exactly the goal of initiatives like San Francisco's DJ Project. Much like H2ED, the DJ project uses hip-hop culture to reach out to urban youths for which this music has become an integral part of their lives. It would seem that the old perception of this music being a bad influence and having no redeeming qualities has actually been changed and is now perceived as music that can actually create a sense of empowerment for many kids.
For the Colorado Hip Hop Coalition (CHHC) founded in 1979 they take this empowerment to another level by:
* Creating a cultural connection between hip hop Culture that and kids
* Giving youth a stronger voice in the creation of programs suited to their needs and interests
* Developing a community network of hip hop artists and entrepreneurs that work collectively to create community economic opportunity
The Future Is Bright
The next time you hear people bemoaning the negative influence of hip hop, think about these pioneers in education and how they have looked beyond the negativity and embraced the potential and common bond between hip hop, kids and education.
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