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Back to November Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 298 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS NOVEMBER 2010

Hip-Hop History Slams Founders
Flocabulary
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More than a dozen Oklahoma City teachers have complained or expressed concern about a newly adopted educational aid for U.S. history curriculum. Known as Flocabulary, the program uses hip-hop songs to help students in grades 3-12 memorize vocabulary words and the basic principles of math, science, English, and history.

The U.S. history component has raised eyebrows among some teachers, however. The chapter covering America's founding fathers is titled "Old Dead White Men," and focuses on the perceived faults of the nation's early leaders. The rap describes James Monroe's presidency as a period in which: "White men getting richer than Enron./ They stepping on Indians, women and blacks./ Era of good feeling doesn't come with the facts."

The song goes on to assess President Andrew Jackson's dealings with Indians this way: "Andrew Jackson, thinks he's a tough guy./ Killing more Indians than there are stars in the sky./ Evil wars of Florida killing the Seminoles./ Saying hello, putting Creek in the hell holes./ Like Adolf Hitler he had the final solution./ 'No, Indians, I don't want you to live here anymore.'"

In addition to being grammatically incorrect, other lyrics are arguably juvenile and inappropriate for classroom use. For example, a song about the Supreme Court says, ". . . the dudes in the robes, what they wear under there nobody knows." Another rap likens Aaron Burr's duel with Alexander Hamilton to Dick Cheney's hunting accident.

Tierney Cook, media relations manager for Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS), said the program is planned for use in alternative education programs, such as juvenile detention centers and hospitals. The Oklahoma Watchdog asked Kathleen Kennedy, executive director for communications for OKCPS, why officials chose a trendy, hip-hop program rather than using conventional teaching methods. "You can't use conventional methods to teach children these days," answered Kennedy. She added that, "Some people may not like it, but it is effective."

At least two notable academics like the program very much. Flocabulary's website boasts that radical socialist Cornel West and revisionist historian Howard Zinn (now deceased) praised the American history curriculum as "extraordinary" and "necessary." The website also states that its supplemental curriculum is "proven to raise scores on state tests" and is already being used in over 10,000 schools nationwide.

OKCPS Superintendent Karl Springer said Flocabulary's rollout to at-risk students has been delayed until the program can be evaluated. "The science behind the concept is wonderful. There may be some things, though, that are inappropriate that we need to be careful about." (newsok.com,10-1-10; Oklahoma.watchdog.org, 6-8-10)


 
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