Most classes start with a “Do Now” or “Warm-Up.” Mine often start with a hip-hop cypher. In a cypher, students stand in a circle, spread at equal distances, and one at a time, contribute a rhyme, line of poetry, thought, idea, or affirmation. This circle is the pedagogical foundation of the work I do in hip-hop education.
On a recent February afternoon, just outside of New York City, only miles from hip-hop’s birthplace in the South Bronx, I asked my high school students to answer this question in the opening cypher; why should schools include hip-hop in the curriculum?
Christian, now a junior, told us that, “hip-hop is a culture and it’s just like learning about the Aztecs or the Mayans. We learn the origin, customs, and traditions [of hip-hop].” Recalling a recent lesson on hip-hop’s fifth element, Christian went on to explain that hip-hop offers students an…
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