Hip-Hop Rebuffs NCLB

Mari Rice
August 14, 2007

The Hip-Hop Social Forum, hosted by the National Hip-Hop Political Convention (NHHPC) Atlanta local organizing committee on July 28, 2007 at Georgia State University, was as dynamic and energetic as hip-hop itself. Community activists, educators, youth and aspiring hip-hop artists gathered to speak on a wide range of topics exploring the connection of hip-hop and the larger society. Using hip-hop music and culture to enhance education is a concept gaining greater academic acceptance. The relationship between hip-hop culture and schools were a major part of the forum's workshop discussions.

Steven Waddy of the NHHPC served as the moderator of the Taking Hip Hop to the Schools panel. Panelists included Bernard Cook, Dallas Austin Foundation; Minister Server, Temple of Hip-Hop; Sister Rah (Rabiyah A. Karim-Kincey), WRFG and Big Nel, I am Hip-Hop. Workshops included How to Use Hip Hop in Your Curriculum, The No Child Left Behind Act and High Stakes Testing.

Sister Rah said it is important for young people to learn the foundation of hip-hop, which is based on social consciousness. She pointed out that artists such as Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc and Sha Rock (the first female hip-hop emcee) are an important part hip-hop's legacy, adding that break dancing, new forms of poetry, and emceeing all sprung from this culture. She noted, "When future artists understand the history of hip-hop, they'll be able to [view] networks like BET and MTV and make a decision on what they feel is acceptable and unacceptable."

Presenters at the forum asserted that hip-hop is an expressive manifestation of the past and current experiences as well as the collective consciousness of African-American culture. Minister Server stressed that hip-hop can be found in any educational subject including math, science, english and history. He asserted that hip-hop artists have addressed issues of social movements such civil rights as well.

"It's important to make education relevant to young people," said Server. "If there is anything more powerful to build or to destroy our youth, it is hip-hop,". He continued saying, "We want to teach youth more than the motorcycle dance, booty shaking and the importance of having rims. This has overshadowed the true foundation of hip-hop that we want to bring to the forefront."

Another workshop discussed the controversial No Child Left Behind Act and high stakes testing in the schools. Dr. Philip Kovacs, assistant professor of education at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and chair of the Educator Roundtable has been working to end NCLB via an online petition with over 30,000 signatures. Kovacs reported, "Rather than focus on achievement gaps in schools, we might ask what NCLB has done to close other gaps that clearly result in poor educational development as the healthcare gap, homeownership gap, the wage gap and children living below the poverty line gap."

The online petition lists several reasons for the dismantling of The No Child Left Behind Act including:

  • The law's simplistic approach to education reform wastes student potential, undermines public education, and threatens the future of our democracy.
  • Misdiagnoses the causes of poor educational development, blaming teachers and students for problems over which they have no control.
  • Assumes that competition is the primary motivator of human behavior and that market forces can cure all educational ills.
  • Mandates data driven instruction based on gamesmanship to undermine public confidence in our schools.
  • Uses pseudo science and media manipulation to justify pro-corporate policies and programs, including diverting taxes away from communities and into corporate coffers.
  • Places control of what is taught in corporate hands many times removed from students, teachers, parents, local school boards, and communities.
  • Requires the use of materials and procedures more likely to produce a passive, compliant workforce than creative, resilient, inquiring, critical, compassionate, engaged members of our democracy.

Janice L. Mathis, Esq., executive director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition's Peachtree Street Project spoke about challenges in the education system in Georgia where third graders are expected to pass the CRCT -- a standardized test of academic ability. Mathis said the state has repeatedly failed to properly fund Early Intervention, a measure designed to assure that all Georgia third graders are reading on grade level. Reports show that $30,000,000 was cut from Early Intervention. Forum participants discussed significant changes that need to take place in the educational system in order to ensure educational reform that will result in positive student learning outcomes for public school children.

The Hip-Hop Social Forum was a powerful event meshing the hip-hop culture with a commitment to transform the negative stereotypes promoted by the powers that be in corporate America. The forum opened up important dialogue on issues facing educational, political and social institutions. The Atlanta event made one thing clear: A generation grounded with a knowledge of history and belief in hip-hop cultural pride can reshape and re-energize education and society in general.


Mari Rice is a freelance writer living in Atlanta, Ga.


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http://www.petitiononline.com/campd227/petition.html<br />
<br />
To: President elect Barack Obama<br />
<br />
<br />
We, the undersigned, devoted thousands of hours of volunteer time to the election of Barack Obama as President. As Professional educators we were encouraged by the promise to have an open and respectful dialogue within the educational community about NCLB, its limits, and its failures.<br />
Now, a trial balloon has been advanced in the media for Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC schools to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education in an Obama Administration. ( It is quite possible that Klein himself promoted the trial balloon.) Trial balloons are trials. They are floated to see how people will react.<br />
This petition is a reaction.<br />
The administration of Joel Klein as Chancellor of New York City Schools is representative of a particular rigid approach to school change promoted by NCLB which we oppose. Rather than take the advice of educators, Chancellor Klein repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children. The NY City Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship – with no input from parents or educators. Teachers have not been respected, consulted, nor listened to. And little thought has been devoted to how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to the children and their futures.<br />
To lay at the door of schools the many problems the of society—and particularly those that afflict people of color and low income—as does Joel Klein, is a transparent media manipulation of complex issues. While focusing on test scores, he has consistently ignored the crisis of overcrowding in New York schools. Thousands of children are being given special services in hallways or in closets.<br />
Rather than face the complex nature of student achievement and to work for substantive school improvement, Chancellor Joel Klein has joined with others to blame teachers unions and to bash teachers.<br />
He has, at the same time, refused to reduce class size, despite repeated audits and reports from the New York State Comptroller’s office and the State Education Department .<br />
Joel Klein has repeatedly demonstrated that his primary goal is improving test scores even when these policies produce cheating and a focus on test preparation. The rise in state test scores that has resulted is not matched by improvements in the more reliable national assessments called the NAEPs. In fact, NYC was 11th out of 12 urban school districts in New York in terms of its gains in the NAEPs over the course of his administration, and there has been no closing of the achievement gap in any subject tested. The available data New York City does not support the claims of improved school achievement under this administration. This singular focus on test scores contradicts the educational platform of the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign.<br />
<br />
We were encouraged by the Obama campaign’s call to reform NCLB and for adequate school funding rather than to continue with the narrow blame-the –teacher –focus of the Bush administration and candidate McCain. The Joel Klein administration in NYC has modeled school change efforts of the mode of the Bush/McCain efforts and in stark opposition to the promises of the Obama campaign.<br />
For these reasons, and after noting the cries of opposition from parents groups, we the undersigned oppose the nomination of Joel Klein and we call upon the Obama Administration to seek broad public input into important decisions.<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
Sincerely,<br />
<br />
The Undersigned<br />
GO TO PETITION HERE:<br />
> http://www.petitiononline.com/campd227/petition.html<br />
FOR A LOT OF GOOD INFORMATION ABOUT JOEL KLEIN in the NYC Public Schools go to:<br />
> http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com

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