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Blog Entries tagged 'education'

Before Hip-Hop Was Hip-Hop

I keep coming across old essays I wrote that seem to have disappeared off the face of the planet--this one was for a high-school textbook. Glad to see it's holding its own.

Tell me what you think:

BEFORE HIP-HOP WAS HIP-HOP
by Rebecca Walker
© Prentice Hall Literature Textbook

If you ask most kids today about hip-hop, they’ll spit out the names of recording artists they see on TV: Eminem, P. Diddy, J. L o, Beyonce. They’ll tell you about the songs they like and the clothes they want to buy. They’ll tell you about the indisputable zones of hip-hop like “EO” (East Orange, New Jersey), the “ATL” (Atlanta, Georgia), and the “West Side” (Los Angeles, California), neighborhoods they feel they know because they’ve seen them in all the glossiest, “flossiest” music videos. Hip-hop is natural to these kids, like air or water, just there, a part of the digital landscape that streams through their lives.

I watch this cultural sea change with fascination. It astounds me that hip-hop has grown into a global industry, a force that dominates youth culture from Paris to Prague, Tokyo to Timbuktu. I can’t believe that in small, all-white towns like Lincoln, Nebraska, high school boys wear their clothes in the latest “steelo”: pants sagging off their waists, sports jerseys hanging to their knees, baseball hats cocked to one side. Even in the pueblos of Mexico, where mariachi bands and old school crooners still rule, it is hip-hop that sells cars, sodas, and children’s toys on TV.

The vast empire of hip-hop amazes me because I knew hip-hop before it was hip-hop. I was there when it all began.

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July 5th, 2009

The End of the University as We Know It

I'm really loving this Op-ed by Mark Taylor in yesterday's Times, here's a section:

2. Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed. It is possible to imagine a broad range of topics around which such zones of inquiry could be organized: Mind, Body, Law, Information, Networks, Language, Space, Time, Media, Money, Life and Water.

Consider, for example, a Water program. In the coming decades, water will become a more pressing problem than oil, and the quantity, quality and distribution of water will pose significant scientific, technological and ecological difficulties as well as serious political and economic challenges. These vexing practical problems cannot be adequately addressed without also considering important philosophical, religious and ethical issues. After all, beliefs shape practices as much as practices shape beliefs.

A Water program would bring together people in the humanities, arts, social and natural sciences with representatives from professional schools like medicine, law, business, engineering, social work, theology and architecture. Through the intersection of multiple perspectives and approaches, new theoretical insights will develop and unexpected practical solutions will emerge.

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April 28th, 2009

Shift Happens: Preparing our children for the 21st century

Deep.

November 30th, 2008

Malia and Sasha: Public or Private

Today's Root post:

I'm a little late to this conversation, but I feel compelled to weigh in on the question of whether the Obama children should go to public or private school. I truly, deeply, completely understand why some feel sending Malia and Sasha to a private school will indicate an "abandonment" of the public school system, but still and all I think this is an inappropriate, bordering on reckless, discussion.

First of all--the question reminds me of Obama's behind the scenes remark in Newsweek:

"So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f–––ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."

I don't think sending the girls to public school is going to solve the unbelievable decline of our schools. And I seriously doubt he will be less motivated to improve the public school system de facto because he and Michelle send their girls to a private school.

Then there is the quality of the DC public school system. They are working on it, and I have tremendous respect for the teachers and many excellent public schools, especially the charter schools, in DC, but the history is fraught with issues. I went to one of the best public schools on Capitol Hill when my father worked for the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Jimmy Carter, and let's just say it could have been better.

Which brings us to the question of giving your kids "less" on principle. It reminds me of parents who believe you shouldn't leave money to your children because they won't work hard or appreciate the benefits of self-reliance, which is fine. But what if that somehow compromises the stability of your children or grandchildren?

Aren't principles, if they undermine long-term viability and health, dysfunctional?

What troubles me about these conversations is the assumption Malia and Sasha are just like everyone else. They may be in some ways, but they are not in one very big way: they are the children of the President of the United States. There are massive security issues to be managed. Those kids need to be in the most controlled environment possible. That means contained campuses, administrative familiarity with similar situations, and all manner of other considerations.

Safety first. Principles second. Or, what about safety being the overriding principle? 

What do you think?

 

November 13th, 2008