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Hip-hop studies is the Latest Education Trend

Ever noticed how it’s a lot easier to remember the lyrics to your favorite songs than it is to, say, recite from memory the Periodic Table, or the first 30 lines of “The Canterbury Tales”? Well, in 2004, two recent college graduates named Blake Harrison and Alex Rappaport noticed the same thing. Popular music, they decided, might be a more effective means of teaching children than conventional book study. So the two founded a company they called Flocabulary. Its mission: to teach academic subjects using rap music.

Six years later, Flocabulary has a distribution deal with textbook giant Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt, and about 300,000 students across the country use the program. In more than 12,000 American schools, kids are rapping about English, history, science and math. By most accounts, they love it. And why wouldn’t they? Singing’s more fun than studying.

But are they actually learning anything? That’s less clear. Despite endorsements from left-wing academics like Howard Zinn, there are still no independent studies that demonstrate rapping about social studies is any more educational than rapping about sex or gunfights.

One thing you can say about Flocabulary, though: it’s quick. Let’s say you wanted to teach a room full of kids about the history of the civil rights movement. You could spend weeks reading actual books on the subject, then explaining the facts of what happened and why. Or, in a fraction of the time, you could simply recite a rap:

MLK had a dream, took it mainstream.
Civil Rights Bill, Voting Rights Acts, they passed.
Modern day Jesus, turning the other cheek,
some blacks like “dog, that’s weak.
I’m not looking to get beat deep into next week,
my everyday life is police brutality.”
Malcolm picked up X and dropped his slave name,
radical change, “defense by any means.”
Went on hajj to Mecca, said ‘let God protect ya,
Whites and Blacks, yeah, we’re in this together.’
But there are race riots, people are dying,
Warfare in Watts, tear gas, bullets are flying.
So JFK?
He got assassinated.
MLK?
He got assassinated.
Malcolm X?
He got assassinated.
So it’s up to us to keep that dream alive…

It’s that simple. As long as you don’t care about context or accuracy – as long as your goal is to encourage students to “keep that dream alive,” rather than to teach them legitimate history – rapping is as good as teaching.

It certainly puts fewer demands on the kids. As Alex Rappaport explained to The Boston Globe, “We encourage students to trust their own use of words and understanding of vocabulary, rather than focusing on what some old dictionary says.”

In other words: don’t push yourself or venture beyond the familiar. Ignore the accumulated wisdom of those who came before you. You already know everything you need to know.

The problem, of course, is that this is absurd. Most kids have no reason to trust their own “understanding” of vocabulary. Speaking fluent English – like doing long division, or successfully rewiring a 220-volt electrical outlet – is not a skill you’re born with. It’s something you learn, occasionally even by opening some old dictionary. If kids could correctly intuit the meaning of words they’d never heard, school might not be necessary in the first place.

The unhappy truth is, learning is hard. Get-educated-quick schemes are usually about as sound as subprime mortgage-backed securities: Enticing but basically fraudulent. Almost noboHip-hop studies is the Latest Education Trenddy gets rich or erudite overnight.

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Added: May-16-2010 
By: Songun
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Tags: Hip-hop studies, Education Trend, rap dog
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  • I know black people are not less intelligent than white people, but it could be socio-cultural differences in teaching techniques and learning pathways in the brain that account for the vast difference in report card marks.
    Could it be that simple a solution, rapping out times tables and arithmetic or history lessons to overcome learning differences?
    Cool.

    Posted May-16-2010 By 

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