Hip-hop as teaching aid

In an attempt to engage students in a subject that they might otherwise find irrelevant, some teachers are using hip-hop (“Why hip-hop belongs in today’s classrooms,” the conversation, Jan. 13). But hip-hop pedagogy is controversial for understandable reasons.

For one thing, it is filled with foul language and glorification of violence, particularly toward women.  Therefore, whatever instructional benefits hip-hop might have, the question arises whether there are not better ways of making a subject relevant.

I think the issue comes down to how hip-hop is used.  In the hands of creative and responsible teachers, it can be a valuable tool.  I’m assuming, of course, that parents don’t find hip-hop to be intrinsically too offensive.  I say that because so much depends on local values.  What is acceptable in a large urban school district would not necessarily be acceptable in a small rural district.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

4 Replies to “Hip-hop as teaching aid”

  1. I truly think parents have nothing to say about whether kids listen to HipHop, and yes, some of the lyrics are very raunchy. That is a horse that has left the barn.
    The play Hamilton brought the mystery of Hip Hop to many parents, who found themselves paying more than they ever thought they would to see the beginnings of our country as sung partly in Hip Hop. I think I can say with some certainty, the parents loved it. That play also introduced many teenagers to American history and I am told lit for some a fire to know more. The cast even performed at Obama’s White House. You can see on YouTube.
    I was not yet a teen when Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard we’re tearing things up. My parents were curious, not proscriptive, and I know that as a teenager if I wanted to listen, I would have. That is likely more so today because of all the devices available and the many ways to hear music, any kind.
    Parents will have to work out some reasonable plan but I don’t think they can control what teens listen to, no matter how they may hate the lyrics. Maybe the parents should have thought before they were so fast to put a device in their teens’ hands, at so young an age.


    1. dkhatt: Hip-hop remains very popular with young people for reasons I don’t understand. But if it engages them, it can be a valuable tool in the hands of a responsible teacher.


  2. Seems like hip-hop is analogous to some kinds of poetry (like haiku) — does not follow regular grammar rules but conveys some kind of message via not just the words but also the format. If so, it does not follow that hip-hop must be raunchy, sexist or violent any more than a haiku must be raunchy, sexist or violent.

    On the other hand, for a teacher to communicate principally or even largely via hip-hop would result in students losing too much substance as well as students being too exposed to what is pretty much unacceptable for general-conversation English. Fine as an occasional novelty; counterproductive as an every-day approach.


  3. Labor Lawyer: As long as hip-hop is stripped of its offensive lyrics, the form alone can help teachers make their subject more interesting. I never understood its appeal, but I accept its popularity.


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