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Tapping Into the Power of Hip-Hop to Reach Students

Tapping Into the Power of Hip-Hop to Reach Students

Wed Apr 13, 2016 at 03:08 PM

Adapted from reaching students through hip-hop, by Rene Wisely.

As a young teacher of English in California, a few blocks from the ocean and near the Mexico border, Emery Petchauer made a connection that would shape not only his future doctoral career, but the ways in which students would engage in the study of language and culture. His own penchant for hip-hop and encouragement from an open-minded mentor led him to study how the culture could impact education. This passion soon translated into Emery becoming an award winning doctoral student at Virginia Regent University.

After first emerging in New York in the 1960's, hip-hop today has wide-reaching power. Petchauer observes that, “Without even trying, it has spread to every habitable continent around the world. It is evocative, provocative and attractive to them, so much where people have taken it up and reinterpreted it as their own, which makes it a highly leveraged practice."

Petchauer views hip-hop as much more than a musical genre. He believes it to be the most important cultural phenomenon to emerge from the late 20th century. “Hip-hop crosses race, culture, class, geography and gender lines. It has become an important subculture, one that often deliberately hides its affiliation, yet is as vital as any other group found on a college campus. Hip-hop is an aesthetic — a self-expression,” Dr. Petchauer continues. “It is linguistic (rapping, DJ-ing, emceeing); kinesthetic (b-boy and b-girl, or breakdancing); visual (graffiti); musical (beat-boxing) and filled with self-knowledge."

“People filter themselves and define themselves through all these elements — not just the music. It is one cultural resource we should take seriously and figure out how it can be used for teaching and learning.”

Petchauer believes that educators need to challenge themselves to create a hip-hop- friendly classroom, whether it is through attitudes, philosophies or inspired activities. Students should be encouraged to show who they truly are, an essential ingredient to any healthy learning environment. What is most important for educators is helping students be themselves.

His course, “The Education of Hip-Hop Culture,” is being taught at Oakland’s Honors College this fall.

To read more about Dr. Petchauer and view his recent publications on the subject of hip-hop and education, click here.


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