The continued relevance of Hiphoped – Unseen Flirtations
A brief rundown of my current thoughts regarding Hiphoped. Contains lightbulbs.
Hiphoped is intrinsically academic
The average Hiphoped meet up often goes something like this: We meet up. We sit down. We talk. We debate. We discuss. We swap ideas. We philosophise. We drink coffee. We intellectualise. We eat. We take notes. We go home. We write blog posts.
Since becoming an active participant in UK Hiphoped, it has struck me that this facet of Hiphop (more on that later) is intrinsically academic and necessarily intellectual. One of the criticisms that has been levelled at Hiphoped is that it is overly academic and prone to over-analysis, but this, I think, is a distinguishing factor of the pedagogy. It is at its core a critical pedagogy that interrogates norms in much the same way that Hiphop interrogates society, in its very existence. This should be accepted as a defining quality of Hiphoped; it uses academia to not only analyse and critique Hiphop and Education, but to critique itself.
A positive off-shoot of this is that Hiphoped welcomes academia in a non-establishment context. It states, through its very existence, that intellectualism is not the preserve of the Haves. The marginalised are just as likely to intellectualise as those in the various seats of power.
The future of CPD
A slightly grandiose sub-heading I admit, but the sentiment still stands. Hiphoped has been, for me, one of few forums and platforms for the open discussion of teaching and pedagogy with like minded individuals, including but not limited to practicing teachers.
At a time when teacher training is being actively nudged out of institutions of further education into a free market, and new teachers are increasingly at the mercy of market forces and political agendas, it seems important that avenues remain open for debate and interrogation. Otherwise, the status quo will persist, blindly, and that can’t be a good thing.
Where identity matters
Education can so easily fail to recognise young people on their own terms. Worse still, it can completely ignore the identity of students (cultural, personal) and fail to reconcile the Home – Self – Road trichotomy. The simple fact is that Hiphoped concerns itself with identity in a way that mainstream educational thinking does not, and failure to do so is ultimately to the detriment of the positive educator/ educatee relationships.
Recognition the Other
The problem with being inside the margin is that it becomes very difficult to acknowledge that a margin even exists. This conflict is at the heart of Hiphop and, thus, at the heart of Hiphoped. Where the mainstream doesn’t recognise the experience of marginalised peoples, Hiphop celebrates and validates these experiences. In education, students are far too readily treated as empty vessels in need of filling with knowledge in preparation for a world not of their creation. This approach to education supports power structures that are absolutely not in the favour of the most important stakeholders: the kids.
Sampling, reinvention, recontextualisation, hybridisation… nothing new in the development of art and culture across the ages, but never so perfectly exemplified as in this 40 year-old popular culture we call Hiphop. As an integral part of pop culture Hiphop is an omnipresent part of our students’ lives and our experiences. Ignoring the impact of Hiphop on the world view is like ignoring the Enlightenment, or Colonialism, or Industrialisation, or any other massively influential capital H Historical world event.
Hiphoped, in its self-critique, is perfectly placed to make sense of this particular moment in time, from the level perspective of those who are subject to world forces. It doesn’t accept dominant theory, which, rather than antagonistic, is quite an open-minded approach overall.
Bridging into institutions
A lot of debate around the relevance of Hiphoped to education and the place of Hiphop ethos in education has centred on the extent to which it can or should infiltrate the mainstream. A subtle spin on this is the idea that Hiphoped can act as a bridge into the mainstream, able to connect with what already exists by dint of the fact that it is already relevant.
Hiphoped can sharpen your skills
Much has been said about Hiphop’s ability to heighten skills; encouraging competence in the spirit of competition. In recent seminars, much has been said of how this transfers into political and educational arenas. A Hiphop approach to curriculum design, pedagogy and even institutional politics encourages the individual to heighten their criticality and focus their approach. As I’ve said before, ‘the only way to stay sharp in this game is to keep your tools flinty and assume there is always another way’, an attitude that is foundational in Hiphop culture.
A space for real conversations
More than once, anecdotes have emerged of how Hiphoped has allowed conversations to flourish that would otherwise be smothered by the parameters of mainstream structures. In my experience, this rings true. Talking frankly about Hiphop and related social, cultural, political, philosophical and moral issues has allowed my students to discuss all sorts of taboo subjects and ‘isms’, without my having to frame the debate as SRE.
Case in point: on discussing gender issues in Hiphop, my year 8s divulged that they had all seen (more than once) the Kid Ink ‘Body Language’ video, which we then watched, with distance and academic detachment. I (the only adult in the room) was the only person in the room who had not seen the video, which is rife with hyper-sexualised images of women. In a completely uncontrived manner, we discussed important and relevant social issues from the starting point of the kids’ enthusiasm for a song they viewed as edgy and exciting. Hiphoped, as an approach, allowed us to go beyond censorship and sensationalism into intellectual engagement.
At a time where diversity is frequently talked about but not always evidenced, institutionally, it has been refreshing to enter a discourse that welcomes, accepts and ultimately celebrates diversity. And I don’t mean this in a trite manner. Hiphoped is fuelled by the differences in its advocates. Anyone who has attended a Hiphoped seminar will attest to the diversity of attendees, with regard to professional backgrounds, nationality, age, class, colour, creed and iphone preference.