I hate rap. I despise it for many reasons: the gratuitous swearing, the widespread condemnation of women, the glorification of drugs and alcohol, the constant chatter about how they rose above their Compton-esque neighborhood and are better than all the other rappers in the market, the fact that they can’t sing. There are a few exceptions – I’ve always been partial to Eminem and Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” – but overall I can’t stand rap music. Sorry if I offend any die-hard fans of it.
What does this have to do with education?, you might be wondering. It’s a good question, of course. The truth is… nothing, really. But it does. Read on.
I have to do this project in EDUC 275. Maybe you’ve already done it or, like me, are mentally preparing yourself to do it. It’s the Diversity project or “Intercultural Awareness” project as it’s known now, and I won’t go into details about it because just thinking about it makes me all kinds of emotional, but the gist of it is that you pick a group you don’t like or don’t understand and go immerse yourself in their culture.
I was sitting at the table yesterday, checking my email, while my sister was working on her Gatsby homework. She was playing rap, her favorite music, and I was gritting my teeth and baring it until I had a question.
I looked at her and said, “Why do you like rap?”
No disgust, no condescension, just a question. She looked a little surprised, then she tilted her head and looked thoughtful for a moment.
“I like the lyrics,” she said. Then she added she likes the rhythm and the beat, and sometimes the messages are really deep. I said, like what? She said the song that was playing right then, “No Love,” she thinks is about bullying. At least that’s what the music video conveys. We both agreed that music videos ruin the song and then I asked if they’re all like that. She said well, no; like “Make it Nasty,” her favorite song? There’s nothing really deep about it. She just likes the musical qualities of it.
Then I asked her to define “deep” for me, because she kept using the word and it meant nothing to me. She thought some more but couldn’t answer the question, so she played a song for me: “Doing It Wrong” by Drake (she loves Drake). I wouldn’t classify the song as rap because he doesn’t actually rap in the song (he sings), but it didn’t seem to be about anything offensive. It was just about his recently broken heart. And she cited Eminem too because we like the songs where he talks about his daughters – “When I’m Gone” is my favorite.
Obviously I’m going to have students who like rap. I’ll have students who love rap. I may even have future rappers. And it would be wrong of me to form negative opinions of my students based on their taste in music and the fact that I don’t agree with it. Musical taste doesn’t make a person less of a successful student; it just makes their musical taste different from my musical taste, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Not only that, my sister was able to defend her choices, which means that it’s based on her own personal opinions and not because it’s the “in” thing to listen to. And she had interesting arguments for it, like the fact some songs have meaningful messages that I didn’t think was possible in a genre I loathed so much.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that judging a student based on outward appearances isn’t very egalitarian, especially when it’s based on something as superficial as taste in music, for example. I really, really hope I’ll be able to overcome some of my prejudices against things like that when I have students of my own, so I can see beneath the gaudy “gangsta” appearance to the hardworking student hiding within.