Top Five Rap Quotes About Sucky Teaching
It wasn’t until I did some analysis on the roots of my worldview that I realized that there have been rap lyrics that have informed my decision to teach and informed my methods of teaching. They have assisted with my goals to teach beneficial information with through an emancipatory pedagogy (wadup Dr. Goodwin!). Whenever I design lesson plans, address negative student behaviors, or witness systemic failure, here are the Top Five Rap Quotes About Sucky Teaching!
“To all the teachers that told me that I would never amount to nothing…”
~Notorious B.I.G., “Juicy” Ready to Die
I was way younger when I first heard this. To me, it’s the student’s revenge quote of all student’s revenge quotes. Not because of the actual quote itself, but more so the crystallized narration of the quoted. Biggie’s story was what made him blow up as much as his versatility and lyrical capability. To know that this hustler turned rapper had a step in his life where he was rejected by teacher was a major insight into his life’s progression. The quote is in the beginning of the song, but gets more power retroactively after you listen to the entire song, as it is the perfect “I came up despite the odds” anthem. When you get to close to the end where Frank White says “stereotypes of a black male misunderstood…and it’s still all good,” the quote about his teachers takes its rightful place in the puzzle. For me, it gives me resolve to not be that teacher who gives up and condemns, because coal can convert to diamond real quick, and I don’t need no diamond shining any light on any potential insensitivity I’ve shown.
“In school my teacher’s blinded me, but now I can see/ I’m mentally and revolutionarily free”
~Immortal Technique, “Speak Your Mind” Revolutionary Vol. 1
When I hear this Immortal Technique lyric I immediately think of my first experiences in Mr. Reddington’s US History class (wadup Red!). We read a section of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. We read about the true and savage nature of Christopher Columbus’ conquest, I could literally feel societal lies dying, and knowledge of self growing.This was a teacher (and I had others) who was not about blinding anybody, and exposed something in me that I could routinely use to weaken the astigmatism we all have at varying levels. When I decided to be a classroom teacher, I decided that I want to set up as many opportunities for students to have that moment where they feel like their vision is starting to clear up.
“I failed your class cause I ain’t with your reasoning/ You’re tryin’ make me you by seasoning up my mind with ‘See Jane Run'”
~KRS One, “You Must Learn” Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip-Hop
I will do you one better. In kindergarten, my teacher tried to make us read The Story of Little Black Sambo. Hearing this lyric I immediately flash back to that, and how this wasn’t an incidental faux paux, and how even a 5 year old could detect racism before knowing how to spell it. This quote reminds me that omitting the cultural, historical, and political positions of an ethnic group in this country isn’t just insensitive, it’s systemic perpetuation of second class citizenship. When I lesson plan, this Blastmaster KRS (affectionately called “The Teacher”) reminds me of the fact that knowledge can only be expanded if their is a core identity or need that gets used to fuel that expansion. But not only does education in America frequently leave that core neglected, but it gets assaulted.
“Junior High School dropout, teacher’s never cared/ They were paid just to show up and leave, no one succeeds/ So he moves with his peers on his block different years/ Sittin’ on different benches like it’s musical chairs/”
~Nas, “2nd Childhood” Stillmatic
I was in the 9th grade when Stillmatic came out, and this song did such a good job matching what I’d seen people do with their lives when they decide to not evolve. It also was the first song I heard showthat illustrated me that a person can be heavily persuaded not to evolve by a teacher. The fact that the person in the song dropped out in Junior High made me ask questions that evolved from “How could teachers have such an impact?” to “Why would a teacher choose to leave this impact?” to “Why isn’t it common knowledge for students to know that teachers can have this impact?” I matched these lyrics with the all too numerous moments I heard “Hey, I get paid whether you fail or not.” It would be hard enough for oppressed peoples and trauma-soaked peoples to succeed in a great school system with great teachers, let alone find success in a school system filled with apathetic teachers. Furthermore, the song makes it clear that these challenges further disorient children in their hyper-significant crossroad ages of 12-14. Students will challenge us, and this quote helps me stay as constructive as possible, especially since I teach in a Junior High School!
“they ain’t teachin’ us nothin’ related to solvin’ our own problems, knowhatimsayin?Ain’t teachin’ us how to get crack out the ghetto… they ain’t teachin’ us how to stop the police from murdering us and brutalizing us, they ain’t teachin’ us how to get our rent paid…they ain’t teachin’ our families how to interact better with each other, knowhatimsayin?“
~dead prez, “They Schools” Let’s Get Free
This quote is NO JOKE. It is my number one for one reason: it straight up avoids the romanticization of getting ‘knowledge of self’ and tells the scariest truth about public education. There are urgencies that impede black and brown children as a whole from succeeding in a traditional school setting. Urgencies that don’t get addressed by the school. Is there a reason why there isn’t an academic approach that could interdisciplinarily use English Language Arts and Social Studies to do activist work against police brutality? Is there a reason why there isn’t an academic approach which could incorporate math that could study income inequality, gentrification prevention, etc.? Is there a reason why the required Participation in Government course isn’t covering the political decay of urban representation and the slow destruction of the voting rights act? If schools authentically addressed any of these challenges regularly I guarantee school performance would drastically change. But they wont do that, thus potentially unraveling the horrid truth. These emancipatory, academic, and life changing educational initiatives would force the professionals in urban education to be immersed in the plight of others, but quite frankly, that’s not what white privilege is all about. Yes, I say white privilege because educational apartheid is real in urban education. Here’s the basic system breakdown: black community hub (school) is controlled by a system informed by white educator privilege. As a result, the black community’s institution that’s supposed to represent their needs, often doesn’t. Through this ignoring, perpetuation of issues continues, all while the educators get paid to not meet community needs. A mechanism thoroughly oiled by white educator privilege. This quote guides my systemic analysis of public education, reminds me to stay creative, extremely relevant, and teach like the ghetto is on fire, not my hair (teachers will get what I just did there). It sets a social advancement standard for me, to which all other academic standards can be fused with.
The wisdom of these written words and the energy emoted from them as spoken word have magnetized the compass of my passion and the compass of my direction. They have helped me evolve as a teacher and continue to do so, with the hopes that it has it’s domino effect on the students that I interact with. Peace and Progress.
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