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Does the East Coast – West Coast Beef Belong in the Classroom?

Teachers Use Hip Hop References to Engage Students

November 8, 2011

Does the East Coast – West Coast Beef Belong in the Classroom?

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a teacher, getting a classroom full of high schools students excited to learn about pretty much anything is a challenge. While some teachers have opted for open discussions and group projects in order to keep their class engaged, others have turned to hip hop.

Over the past few years, a growing number of teachers have implemented hip hop into their lesson plans. According to a report released by the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University’s School of Culture, Education and Human Development, more than 300 middle schools, high schools and after-school programs have been jazzing up typical lessons with hip hop. Curious as to how to works? Kanene Holder, a staff member at the arts-integrated education nonprofit Urban Arts Partnership, breaks it down (pun totally intended) in a U.S. News and World Report article: During one class session, Holder compared the 1990s East Coast vs. West Coast hip hop turf wars between Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls to the American Revolution. “It’s just like the Loyalists vs. the Patriots,” she says. “I would have the students do a rap battle – they’d formulate a rap in a group, formulate some main ideas, [and] then perform it in front of the class. It’s kind of like a town hall meeting, hip hop style.”

So, has implementing hip hop into the classroom been effective? According to Martha Diaz, co-author of the NYU report, they’re not sure…yet. She explains that the initial report was meant to just survey the number and types of hip hop education programs; subsequent studies to determine its effects on graduation rates and student achievement are on the way. Let us know what you think of hip hop in the classrooms. Should other teachers get on the hip hop grind?


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