Monday, March 09, 2015

10.9 Color - Hip Hop and Connections

Bestest Friend and I are in the middle of a blog project. Each day of the month we will post a picture on a pre-determined theme and write a little something about it. The theme for the ninth day of each month is "Color."
I am teaching a class on the role of race and ethnicity in political life this semester. I'm learning a lot about my own preconceived notions, stereotypes, and prejudices, I'm learning about how unempathetic young people of today are, and I'm learning how hard it is for the young people of today.  As part of the class, I have my students attend two out of class events (I call these "diversity events" and feel like a smug elitist when I do so) on campus. There are about two dozen events students can choose from, and because I don't generally ask my students to do things I wouldn't do, I have attended several of those events myself.

Tonight I went to see a speaker who talked about the relationship among hip hop, chess, and martial arts (he runs an organization called the Hip Hop Chess Federation). And he did talk about the linkages among those things and it was quite interesting. But he never told me why any of it was important. He never told me how those connections make connections for the youth he works for. He just listed a bunch of times that hip hop lyrics and kung fu movies referenced the game of chess.
So his talk didn't really resonate with me much. I don't like or listen to hip hop. I don't play chess. I don't practice martial arts.

But it was a good teaching lesson for me. I try to make a point of discussing short- and long-term consequences of what I talk about in each and every one of my classes, but I need to make sure I'm making connections for all of my students.  I need to make sure that they understand why what I'm saying is important to someone, even if they are not those somebodies. I need to make sure that when my students leave my classroom they know exactly why it matters.

I take this speaker's muddled message to heart - people need to think someone thinks they're important and you can do that by expecting them to do their absolute best in a hard discipline.  If you raise the bar for young people, they will rise to it. And that's all I'm trying to do today and tomorrow and the next day.
To see what Bestest Friend wrote about the theme of the day, check out her blog, Too Legit to Quit.

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