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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

In About Four Seconds, a Teacher Will Begin to Speak 

Last week, the school board of the Sun Prairie Area School District approved a proposal set forth by myself and the English department at Sun Prairie High School for a class entitled "Interdisciplinary Poetics: Hip Hop 101".

Obviously, I'm wildly excited about this, my first opportunity to teach an actual class about rap music and hip-hop culture. The support of the department and other folks in the school (as well as at the district level -- Ms. Evelyn Smojver, the Assistant District Administrator, has been extremely outspoken in favor of the project) has been overwhelming. For this, of course, I thank them and the gods for placing me in such a supportive milieu.

Alas, not everyone is on board. The Sun Prairie Star recently editorialized against the class. I will reprint a large section here, since apparently there is no archive of their editorials and I don't know how long it'll be up.
"I don't think we should take hip-hop, which in my opinion is the lowest form of poetic literature, and focus a course on just that," [a committee member] said.

Frankly, we agree.

Too often, hip-hop as an object lesson degrades women and elevates violence to a glorification status.

Although English electives at the high school have been pared back, we think more constructive uses of time for electives could be found in not only teaching the classics, but also requiring students to read.


In this age of the electronic books and Books on Tape, we should require students to read literature?


Yes -- and the same English should also require students to read something outside their normal cultural landscape so they can become familiar with words they won't normally see and can translate into today's language.

And as another challenge, students should be required to read books that haven't been made into top-grossing Hollywood movies or TV shows so they can interact with the material and provide their own interpretation of the subject matter.

Count us among Sun Prairie citizens who protest against this class.

They will be labeled -- just like the newspaper -- as stodgy, insensitive foagies [sic] whose minds are not enlightened to the stylish ways of new-fangled literature.
I have prepared a modest response, which I will post here once I have sent it to the newspaper. The point is: They're wrong on a number of counts, the class has already generated a huge level of buzz on campus, and Bender is great. (By which I mean me.) More news on the class as it develops.

Speaking of Buzz

Microsoft has been sucking up to bloggers and -- once again -- I have been overlooked by our corporate overlords.
Microsoft Corp.'s efforts to woo influential bloggers by sending them free computers loaded with the Vista operating system is generating controversy, with some online writers attacking would-be Vista reviewers for taking what are tantamount to bribes, while recipients defend their editorial independence, arguing that journalism-style rules prohibiting such gifts are outdated.
Hey, Microsoft! I would never accuse you of bribing people. In fact, if you took advantage of my tremendous offer, you would in fact be able to salvage your tarnished image, because there would be no question about my editorial independence.

Don't be morons, Microsoft. Hook me up. (If you really insist on sending only computers, we could maybe work something out where you supply 500,000 free new laptops to Timor.)

I was going to do another Photoshop job tonight, but it's late and I wanna get in some BF2MC before The Daily Show.


Keeping with the MadTV theme, I've always been a fan of their character Marvin Tikvah. Watch him attend a yoga class. Come on, Shelley!

Today I'm listening to: Poor Righteous Teachers!