An award-winning educator proposes radical changes.
Emdin (Mathematics, Science, and Technology/Teachers College, Columbia Univ.; Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation, 2010)—associate director of Columbia’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education and recipient of a Multicultural Educator of the Year award from the National Association of Multicultural Educators—brings considerable expertise to his revisionist views on educating urban students. “Many urban youth of color,” he writes, liken schools to jails, “oppressive places that have a primary goal of imposing rules and maintaining control.” He blames educators who fail to recognize their students’ “complex connections” and “particular way of looking at the world. Identifying urban youth of color as neoindigenous,” he maintains, allows us to understand their feelings of “marginalization, displacement, and diaspora.” For these neoindigenous students, he has devised a “reality pedagogy,” drawn largely from Pentecostal churches and hip-hop culture, which aims to meet students on their own “cultural and emotional turf” and create ways to engage them in learning. Basic to his approach are the “Seven Cs,” including the creation of “cogenerative dialogues,” where students in groups of four become advisers to the teacher on classroom management and content; coteaching, where students take responsibility for imparting course material; cosmopolitanism, in which each student has responsibility for full citizenship in the classroom; awareness of students’ contexts, the better to make connections between their lives and course content; and competition, where the hip-hop battle popular in urban communities is transformed into a Science Battle. Students need to understand, writes Emdin, “that the academic rap battle is not an attempt to co-opt their culture, but an opportunity to bring their culture into the classroom.” That distinction blurs in some cases, such as when he advises one teacher to buy the sneakers her students proudly wear to generate a “rich dialogue” about fashion choices.
An imaginative take on teaching sure to inspire controversy.