The hip hop legend KRS-One recently did some teaching outside of the studio at Tucson Arizona’s Cholla Magnet High School, discussing his limitless knowledge on the birth of hip hop. Oh, and also some critiques on Arizona’s battle over their ethnic studies programs, or rather lack thereof in most cases.
This bit of controversy was enough for the head of Arizona’s education department to launch his own attack on KRS-One’s actions earlier this month. The head of the education department, John Huppenthal, said that KRS’ lecture was not “culturally relevant” and violated the law of ethnic studies in Tucson. Even going as far to say that if Cholla Magnet School did not comply, he would cut 10% of the schools funding.
If you think that sounds insane, well, you’re not alone, and this isn’t the first time Arizona has waged a war on its ethnic studies curriculum. The Arizona state legislature has been attempting to stifle Mexican-American studies curriculum for years, citing fears of resentment towards white Americans being taught in classrooms. The idea of learning about the history of your own people is apparently too much to handle for the Red State politicians in the South.
The Cholla Magnet school’s superintendent was not impressed by Huppenthal’s comments, defending the relevancy of KRS-One’s lecture, because obviously music, especially hip hop culture, is relevant to both Mexican American and African American history. It seems like Huppenthal’s way of thinking is antiquated and is an example of the generational gaps we have in schools. Kids will not absorb anything in the classroom if they are not engaged or cannot relate to the historical context. Bridging the gap requires common ground and social similarities, which hip hop provides both, and then some, in-terms of tying it with other important moments in history.
KRS-One made a statement that was posted on the school’s homepage where he gave praise, saying:
“You should be proud of your school for doing this.”
If the Arizona school’s department head had actually heard KRS-One’s lecture, it would have been plenty obvious that his words were just as much about self-confidence, self-expression, and self-worth; these things are also common thematic elements in all of his songs.
KRS’ uplifting lecture was followed by a complimentary performance for the students and teachers who wished to attend.