Science In the Language of Hip-Hop

Dr. Chris Emdin is Assoc. Professor
at Columbia Univ. Teacher's College.
Tonight I spent a few hours listening to a keynote speech by an amazingly gifted young scholar. Dr. Christopher Emdin is a sort of pioneer in the area of science education in that he uses Hip-Hop as a medium through which the students might receive the content of science instruction. 

I stumbled upon him and his work a few months back on twitter, and I started following him a family of other Hip-Hod heads and scholars who religiously use the hashtag #HipHopEd (Hip-Hop Education). These thorough Hip-Hoppers get together on twitter every Tuesday between 9-10 pm and talk all things Hip-Hop. It's really informative and engaging dialogue.

Tonight he gave the keynote address at Ohio State University's Hip-Hop Literacy Conference. This conference is annual event that is organized by a varied collective of disciplines and departments throughout the university. Dr. Emdin's lecture keyed in on the value of pain to progress. He quoted the great Anais Nin who said:


And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Man, if that isn't a deeply powerful statement. The pain that we feel for the Hip-Hop culture is the very pain that we felt for ourselves having experienced the pangs of of poverty and oppression that plagues our ghettos and urban communities. These are the ones with no spiritual director, no pastor, no church. Just the streets. And when you don't have anything else, you make do with what you got...the streets.


I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Emdin at a Hip-Hop
Literacy Conference at Ohio State University. 
Dr. Emdin is a genius (for real) because he figured out that the way to help kids love science (and school for that matter) is to help them tap into their pain. That pain is most often expressed in the music...the rap music.  Music is the soundtrack of life. And so Hip-Hop is the soundtrack of the hood. 

But Hip-Hop isn't just music. Hip-Hop is language. It is a means of communicating about shared experience. We can't relate to country clubs, trust funds, and international vacations, but what we can relate to is drug abuse, fatherlessness, and crime. It is dress, speech, and style that manifests that shared experience. It is culture.

Dr. Emdin now teaches teachers how to capture the essence of the culture and utilize the indigenous elements of Hip-Hop as tools for instruction. By tapping into their culture we tap into what is nearest and dearest to them...their pain. And when we tap into the pain of ghetto life we unlock the potential for limitless achievement. I wonder if my church folks are hearing this.

Maybe later on I'll delve a little deeper into some of the other concepts in his lecture (specifically the 5 Cs) and how this stuff is relevant for church and ministry.