Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Relevance of #HipHopEd

The relevance of #HipHopEd is relevance. The relevance of the content. The relevance of the voices. The way it allows those who may not have a voice through 'mainstream' channels a voice that becomes relevant and powerful.

HipHop was created from necessity, and has morphed into various forms throughout its existence, each showing the creativity and relevance of the culture as a whole. It's been relevant all along - gangster as the crack epidemic gripped American cities, plush and opulent in the boom years, as wealth was ostentatiously flaunted, gritty and raw in London's East End as the wealth in the Docklands and City didn't spread. It's had reactionary voices, hippy voices, voices of faith and commercialised voices.

HipHop is always relevant.

However, is #HipHopEd always relevant? Perhaps if you teach in the leafy lanes of Surrey, you might argue, it isn't. Nevertheless, I'd wager that you'll find someone there who's been touched by HipHop. If the teacher isn't into HipHop, can they use #HipHopEd? Yes - I've seen plenty of English teachers talk about Akala's TED Talk and his 'HipHop or Shakespeare' game. To be honest, it's the best way I've found yet of teaching iambic pentameter, too!

Where I teach, I'd argue it's fundamentally relevant. It's a form of expression valued by the children I teach - the elements of HipHop inform their dress, their speech, their interests. Don't Flop and SBTV are their Going Live and CNN. They break, lock and pop. They value, and know, voices from Giggs to Guru; they've heard Wu Tang from their parents.

But education isn't 'for them'. It wasn't for their parents, and that's been passed down, understandably.

#HipHopEd is not a panacea for society's race and class ridden ills, for the generations of dispossession that have led us to a society of haves and have-nots, a mere goose step and Daily Mail editorial away from Proles and Party members. Nor is it a quick fix, something to lob in to a lesson, to show you're down.

It's a way of showing, of proving, to pupils that they can have a voice, that their experiences and thoughts are relevant to an increasingly irrelevant education system, which values the chronological, narrative free teaching of our collective story. It's understanding that there are links between a 19th Century French short story and Akala's lyrics; indeed, it's teaching the words of Akala as seriously as you might teach the words of Shakespeare. It's the confidence to take the notion of sampling into an English lesson when it comes to identifying the themes of a genre or the key evidence in a text. As Chris Emdin and GZA note in this video, it's spotting the power and potential of a student and unlocking it through the codes and forms of HipHop. It's Shake the Dust, where poets and MCs worked powerfully with children, leaving a lasting legacy of engagement and understanding, in my school at least, among children, some of whom has been, until then, hard to reach. It's the teacher sampling ideas in different contexts, keeping it fresh, using limited resources to create something powerful and engaging.

#HipHopEd is growing in the UK, but with good links to the US, innovators like Akala and Jacob Sam-LaRose, and an innovative network of like-minded souls - not to mention the elements of the culture itself - it can grow into a real, purposeful and relevant force. It can harness the spirit and creativity of people to remix education into a new form.

It is, and can be, a powerfully relevant force. As proven in this video, which says all I've said, and says it better.