Hip-hop education aims to engage students

Hip-hop education aims to engage students

Educators from throughout the Midwest came to Madison on Monday to learn how they can better serve their students through the art of hip-hop.

The Hip Hop in the Heartland training session focused on the need to move beyond just access and opportunities in education.

Dr. David Kirkland, executive director of New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, said hip-hop education is important because it interrupts the notion of standard education.

“We’ve used a certain system of education and we’ve argued that education is necessary in order for students to succeed,” Kirkland said. But according to the data, this traditional system doesn’t work.

“The same students who fail continue to fail, and it’s persistent,” Kirkland said. “Which means if we continue to try the same thing that is failing, we are what Einstein said: We’re crazy.”

Justine Page, a sixth and seventh-grade teacher in the Madison Metropolitan School District, said the main thing she learned from the training was how important it is for teachers to get to know their students.

“I’ll tell them about myself and then that kind of conversation invites them in to talk about themselves,” Page said. “Me showing vulnerability about myself invites them to show vulnerability to me. We build relationships that way.”

Speakers discussed how literacy gaps are more cultural than educational. Therefore, teachers should find ways to make course material appeal to students’ interests outside the classroom setting.

In his talk, Kirkland discussed how educators should reverse their logic. He said it’s not that students are disengaged, it’s that the existing systems of education have assigned disengaged texts and constructed disengaged classrooms.

“That means we need to rework how we understand systems of education,” Kirkland said. “It means fundamentally re-imagining education — that’s the work we have to do.”

Hip Hop in the Heartland is hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives and Urban Word NYC. This summer they will host a weeklong training program on hip-hop and spoken-word pedagogy. Educators and community leaders can register here.

“Teaching children to embrace where they come from, to embrace their music and not to hide is important,” Page said.