Recently, several academic scholars and institutions have discovered the merit of hip-hop and brought its culture and figureheads into their respective classrooms. Georgetown offers a course on Jay Z-inspired sociology, Beyoncé is the focus of a new gender studies class at Rutgers, and Hov’s relationship and dynamic with Kanye West will be dissected next fall in an English seminar at the University of Missouri. However, not all academic institutions have been as accepting. Recently, an 8th grade English teacher in South Florida included Lil Wayne lyrics in a homework assignment. . . and promptly found herself suspended.
As WPTV reports, the unidentified teacher at The Charter Schools of Boynton Beach violated the school’s policy of using only G-rated material when she assigned the uncensored lyrics to “Six Foot Seven Foot”. According to parent Vanessa Guzman, the students were told to “underline examples of figurative language” in lines like “Two bitches at the same time, synchronized swimmers/Got the girl twisted cause she open when you twist her.” The teacher, who previously had an “unblemished record”, was suspended for three school days.
While Guzman said she understood the teacher’s aim of getting kids to think “outside the box”, she said the activity was “not inappropriate at all,” adding, “They shouldn’t be teaching this stuff in school for language arts. I mean, who in their right mind would give kids something like this? It’s telling the kids it’s okay to swear.”
In an issued statement, school headmaster Wayne Owens wrote, “The lesson was for students to learn to identify literary devices. The teacher had already introduced Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare. Students were having difficulty grasping the concepts of literary devices such as: pun, simile, metaphor, so the teacher used colloquial material. This material did not meet the school’s standards and was not approved. The teacher recognizes that it was totally inappropriate for a school assignment.”
It wouldn’t be the first time rap lyrics made their way into a classroom. In 2003, a teaching assistant at the University of Washington taught a class called “The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur”, exploring the late rapper’s life and lyrical influences. Then, in 2010, Spokane teacher Adam Barry developed “VocabuBarry”, utilizing rap lyrics to introduce his sixth graders to new words. And, of course, there’s this awesome rap song created by an ESL teacher.
As an English minor in college, I’d just like to point out that, while neither Poe nor Shakespeare used curse words like modern artists, one married his 13-year-old cousin and the other was most likely a plagiarist.
Watch the full WPTV report here, and then revisit some of Wayne’s literary classics below.