No amount of money from the state or private charities nor instruction from Crusading White Pedagogues has been sufficient in addressing the distractions that plague Black children and cause the racial gap in learning.
Though the promise of free scholarships from Michael Scott in an episode of The Office did motivate Black children to perform solid enough in their academics to garner tuition from the hapless manager of Dunder-Mifflin Sabre, this fictional TV show is not representative of real-life (consult Scott’s Tots episode).
In the real world, hundreds of organizations offer scholarships that help-out Black children at the expense and exclusion of other races (which is why middle-class white voters flee the increasingly Minority Rainbow Coalition (MRC) run Democratic Party).
Reports have been circulating that indicate a superhero not unlike Meteor Man is at work creating curriculums utilizing Flocabulary, hip-hop style teaching, in a last ditch effort to offer Black children the opportunity of closing the racial gap in learning:
Concern over a new hip-hop curriculum that refers to the founding fathers as "old dead white men" has delayed the program's rollout for at-risk students, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Karl Springer said.
"We're making sure that whatever we do, first, we do no harm," Springer said. "The science behind the concept is wonderful. There may be some things, though, that are inappropriate that we need to be careful about."
Known as Flocabulary, the program is a music-based educational tool that uses raps, rhythms and rhymes to help students learn and memorize everything from vocabulary and English to math and social studies.
About 15 teachers have complained or expressed concern about the rap song lyrics, said Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers.
"I just don't think we were real careful where we deployed it," Allen said. "Not all parts of it are real affective for the more troubled youth."
It is the U.S. history curriculum that has raised concern.
One of the rap songs — "Old Dead White Men" — chronicles the shortcomings of the early leaders in the United States.
Of President James Monroe's tenure, the rap says: "White men getting richer than Enron./ They stepping on Indians, women and blacks./ Era of Good Feeling doesn't come with the facts."
That's followed up by an assessment of President Andrew Jackson's checkered dealings with American Indians.
"Andrew Jackson, thinks he's a tough guy./ Killing more Indians than there are stars in the sky./ Evil wars of Florida killing the Seminoles./ Saying hello, putting Creek in the hell holes./ Like Adolf Hitler he had the final solution./ 'No, Indians, I don't want you to live here anymore.'"
Springer said he was concerned about some of the lyrics, and that's why the district is holding off on the program until it's been evaluated.
Flocabulary CEO and co-founder Alex Rappaport said the lyrics are made intentionally provocative and sometimes humorous to create student engagement among some of the toughest-to-reach students in the nation.
"In general, the purpose of our program is to motivate students, and we often say the enemy here is student apathy," Rappaport said. "We want students to ask questions and challenge assumptions that are made and think critically about historical themes."
If the full school board approves the charter application at the Dec. 14 board meeting, the High School for Recording Arts Portland would be the 10th charter to operate within Portland Public Schools' boundaries. The district has more charter schools than any other place in the state, but it also has a tougher application than most school districts and turns down most applications.
Superintendent Carole Smith also recommended the Portland School Board approve the charter school, which wants to use an arts-integrated curriculum, hip-hop music and credit by proficiency to serve about 200 students.
But Smith's report also recommended the school revise its budget, provide a more detailed curriculum outline and consider postponing the opening to 2011 in order to integrate the school into the district's high school redesign process.
Supporters said the school was an innovative idea that could engage disinterested students by drawing from hip-hop music and other recording arts.
Board member Dilafruz Williams cast the only dissenting vote among the three committee members, saying the school didn't have a strong enough academic foundation.
"I don't understand how, through the recording arts, you will be able to teach all those other critical subjects -- math, science, physics, algebra," Williams said. "I appreciate the strength of the recording arts. But we are in the business of doing that other academic piece and not the recording arts."
All board members said they were concerned about the low achievement scores posted by the High School for Recording Arts Minnesota, a 12-year-old charter school in St. Paul, Minn., that is sharing some of its strategies with the Portland school. Since it is not a replication of the Minnesota school, board members can't use concerns about the Minnesota school as a reason to deny the High School for Recording Arts Portland.
The Word Up Project by Flocabulary has shown stirring results, though any individual who points out the dumb-downed tests that students are taking now to create the impression of successful teaching will only be greeted with scorn and ridicule.
During the 20-plus years Harriett Ball taught in Texas public schools, her methods weren’t always applauded. She sometimes butted heads with a system that didn’t appreciate deviation from the norm. However, Ball was committed to her rambunctious teaching style, which is now nationally celebrated…
She used songs, chants and games to get kids excited about learning. “I take whatever the kids are watching and make it educational,” she said.
Ball once taught math using a McDonald’s commercial tune; another time, she used a mock boxing match to help students “knock out the continents” for a geography test.
“They all aced the test,” she remembers.
Interaction is the cornerstone of Ball’s method. “They’re not just listening to me, they are responding.”
The dramatic improvement in her students’ test scores soon attracted attention.