Understanding hip-hop not only as content, but also as an "aesthetic form" (Petchauer, 2015) is a shift that allows this culture to be more legitimized in the eyes of the education world. As an aesthetic form, hip-hop can be thought of as a guiding principle or pedagogy to be used in classrooms or schools, rather than just as another form of content. The question that remains, after re-thinking hip-hop in this way, is how can this apply in an elementary school? Is hip-hop and its culture an appropriate pedagogical practice to be bringing in to an elementary classroom? On the flip side, how can we ignore this vibrant and relevant culture that reaches out to so many of our students?
Looking closely at some of the hip-hop concepts that Petchauer brings into her article, it becomes clear that they are dealing with mature themes. For example, the concepts of layering and sampling are rich and broad, but are they available to young children? "Sampling is a creative method or framework...[that] requires cultural workers to rearrange the symbols, phrases, rhythms and melodies...into something completely new" (Petchauer, 2015, p. 82). It could be argued that activities are available that make room for children to do some "sampling," be it taking words or phrases from poems or songs and re-working them into their own piece of art. But is this going deep enough? If one is going to adopt the hip-hop pedagogy and use it whole-heartedly with students, it has to be more than just lip-service. It can't just be about looking at some rap music lyrics and discussing their meaning. It has to involve a strong look at the whole culture, and an exploration of how that culture can be brought into a school setting.
The school Petchauer discusses in the second part of the article, "Hip-Hop High," is so called because of its adoption of "the sensibilities and aesthetics of hip-hop - such as sampling, creative resourcefulness, and innovation due to limited resources and circumstances" (Petchauer, 2015, p. 89-90). It could be argued that an elementary school could also adopt these sensibilities and aesthetics, especially around the creative resourcefulness and innovation. However, looking at hip-hop pedagogy in that light, does it mean that any location that is creative and innovative is embracing hip-hop culture? I feel that Petchauer would argue that there is more to hip-hop culture than that, but what is the more and how would this be used for our younger students?
I am left mostly with questions at the end of this article, about how hip-hop culture really fits in with educational practices and how we, as educators, can utilize this framework in appropriate ways. I can see adopting elements of the culture, such as innovation, resourcefulness, layering and sampling many things to make something new and unique. However, I also wouldn't want to trivialize a culture into something trite and meaningless. I feel that more work needs to be done to explore how this culture can be brought into our elementary classrooms in a rich and meaningful way.
Petchauer, E. (2015). Starting with style: toward a second wave of hip-hop education research and practice. Urban Education, 78-105.