A letter from a reader about Hip-hop culture and proper English
March 23 , 2007
Having spent the last three of my retirement years as a substitute teacher
(essentially on a full time basis) in the middle schools of Anne Arundel County,
Md., primarily teaching language arts, once known as “English,” while
my wife struggled in the vineyards of Title One elementary schools in the same county,
I was dismayed to read the Nov.
8 On the Campus article extolling the arrival
on Princeton’s campus of “hip-hop culture.”
What struck me most sharply was a quotation from the moderator’s introduction
of a popular rap artist, then Professor Cornel West *80, whom he described as “the
smartest brother that ‘got’ hair bigger than Don King.”
Every day, my wife and I struggle to introduce children of the so-called “hip-hop
culture” to the notion that the path to success in life is not in the world
of professional sports, entertainment, or other “get-rich-quick” dreams,
but in a world that requires good communication skills, understood and admired in
a mainstream world. Each day we hear: “don’t got” and “ain’t
not” in response to our efforts.
There exists in that culture a mindset that 15 percent of the nation’s
population will dictate the social and business mores of the majority. It
is acknowledged by the response, “Dat’s how weall talk.” Yet,
every day, I can see the results of the resistance to mainstream education that
the hip-hop world espouses, when I go into my supermarkets of choice and
see last years high school dropouts or flunk-outs working at menial tasks.
How then can Princeton University, a bastion of higher-level thinking, graduate
education in the classics, fine arts, and breakthrough science, requiring the
highest communication skills to transmit, support programs that denigrate
our struggles to educate at the beginning and intermediate levels?
It seems to me that “political correctness” and “inclusiveness” have
taken over at the university level, so that there shall be no recognition of
the value of a single “English language.” Do we change the standards
of the SATs and College Board exams now?