Friday, October 14, 2011

Hip-Hop High

Sam Seidel
There are lots of kids who can't or won't connect with the traditional high school setting. Many brilliant and talented among them drop out and wind up on the street. That's one of the reasons why we created the Small Schools Workshop 20 years ago, to help educators develop small, public, personalized, alternative models focused on areas of student interests, talents and passions. While many of the ideas of the early small schools movement were captured and distorted by the regressive currents of privately-managed charter schools, there are still lots of good small, alternative schools fighting to survive and flourish.

One of them is the High School of Recording Arts in St. Paul (MN), also known as Hip-Hop High. In the preface to Sam Seidel's new book, Hip-Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education, veteran alternative schools educator Herb Kohl writes:
The High School of Recording Arts (HSRA) in St. Paul is a bold and exciting attempt to build a high school rooted in this culture and based on performance, music and video production, community-based learning, the study of urban African-American youth culture, and the development of performer and community-controlled businesses. It also attempts to integrate more traditional academic knowledge into its hip-hop focus. 

Last night I went over to the Elastic Arts Foundation in Chicago to hear Seidel read from Hip-Hop Genius . He brought with him school director Tony Simmons and  a couple of HSRA students, Lil C and Federal, who performed some of their own high-energy poetry. Joining them on stage were a couple of local young poets from Kuumba Lynx and Young Chicago Authors.

Seidel's book is the culmination of several years of active documentation and engagement with Hip-Hop High, its students and teachers.  It's a fascinating account of the creation of a learning community tailored to the needs and interests of students and filled with caring teachers and a professional quality recording studio equipped with the latest in digital technology.

Here is just one more example of the power of the arts and other extracurriculars in teaching and learning. Hip-Hop High is trying and seems to have managed to make the extracurricular curricular.

Lots of lessons and questions embedded here for alternative and traditional educators alike, including how this unusual high school wrestles with such issues as testing, standards, and discipline.

1 comment:

  1. I will DEFINITELY check out Seidel's book and pass along to friendly, passionate, committed like-minded teachers who have a true understanding of meeting students' needs and creating schools that make this their mission.


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