Fix Features

Nicole Swinford - Chapman University

Hip hop music and all it represents is no longer just a music genre, it’s morphed into serious academic fodder at a growing number of universities – this despite its frequent glorification of violence, drugs and a gangster lifestyle, and its tendency to degrade women by calling them bitches and ho’s.

But its roots in civil unrest, its effect on America’s youth and its black culture, and its ties to Africana and Latin studies have trumped its unsavory characteristics; at least as far as higher education scholars are concerned.

Professors and academics are quick to defend the academic legitimacy behind this area of study, promising it’s not all fun and games in these courses, students are not just watching rap videos and coming up with some funky fresh lyrics.

But music videos, rapping, and a focus on how hip hop has changed American society are certainly core elements of the studies at universities that host such endeavors, which highlight the genre as a key in America’s cultural evolution over the last several decades.

Take, for example, news from Cornell University last summer that DJ Afrika Bambaataa, one of the genre’s founders, landed a three-year visiting scholar gig.

During one of his talks, the music legend spoke of his gangster warlord past in the Bronx, and how he eventually came to found the Universal Zulu Nation, which he said is about “overcoming the negative to the positive,” according to the Cornell Chronicle.

At Florida State University, a three-credit course called “Sociology of Hip Hop” launched this semester. Students signed up for the course in droves, and there’s a lengthy waiting list, according to a feature on the class in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, which pointed out Harvard and Duke recently began offering hip hop courses as well.

“Being passionate about hip hop, I believe it’s a culture that deserves serious academic study,” co-teacher Andrew Mannheimer, who himself is a Christian rapper, told the newspaper. “If we’re going to examine society I think it’s important for us to be up to date.”

Mannheimer sometimes raps for students, and guest rappers/speakers also visit the classroom. But it’s impossible to study hip-hop without delving at times into its tendency to voice anger and frustration at law enforcement in lyrics.

During one recent FSU hip hop class, for example, a documentary shown “featured interviews with then-Vice President Dan Quayle reacting to Ice T’s infamous song, ‘Cop Killer,’ as well as the musician-turned-actor’s response to Quayle,” the Democrat reported.

Over at the University of Arizona, the school has taken things one step further, announcing in January that students pursuing Africana studies at can now minor in hip hop.

Hip hop has pervaded American culture and has had great influence on that culture, according to the university’s Dr. Alain-Philippe Durand, noting the subject “warrants serious academic inquiry.”

Students will study the impact of hip hop on disciplines ranging from religion to gender to film, and investigate its cultural influence on topics such as hairstyles, street language, and sexuality, online university comments on the subject state.

“Besides its commercial clout, hip hop’s role in challenging stereotypes, destabilizing and unsettling the meaning of blackness and bridging cultural divides in the USA, merits a place in serious academic discussions of how contemporary society functions,” they state.

Classes for the minor include such titles as “Rap, Culture, and God” and “Pan African Dance Aesthetics.” Various music videos are slated to be shown in several classes.

Durand notes a minor in hip hop will show future employers that a student is a “well-rounded human being” who is able to work well “in unfamiliar environments” and “communicate effectively with people from diverse communities and cultural backgrounds.”

And while many in academia seem to embrace hip hop, and certainly there are some positive aspects to it, not everyone’s convinced hip hop should be glamorized and glorified.

“Many writers and thinkers see a kind of informed political engagement, even a revolutionary potential, in rap and hip-hop. They couldn’t be more wrong,” notes John McWhorter in a City Journal piece. “By reinforcing the stereotypes that long hindered blacks, and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly ‘authentic’ response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards black success.”

McWhorter, a contributing editor to the City Journal, writes and comments extensively on race, ethnicity and cultural issues for the Manhattan Institute. His Book, All About the Beat: Why Hip Hop Can’t Save Black America, “pointed beyond the empty gestures of the ‘hip-hop revolution’ to a brave new politics for Black America, calling for a renewed sense of purpose and pride in black communities,” according to the think tank’s website.

Underscoring that, feminists have long bemoaned hip hop and rap as insulting and degrading to women, with “bitches and hoes” lyrics that permeate the genre.

A 2011 article on The Root cites several cringe-worthy examples of how hip hop and feminism don’t mix.

“In 1992 Dr. Dre released his single “Bitches Ain’t Sh–,” complete with a chorus that emphatically reduces women to nothing but “hoes and tricks.” In 1996 Akinyele famously sang “Put It In Your Mouth,” a song that flooded radio airwaves and clubs across the country. Fast-forward to 2003, and Nelly releases a video for his single “Tip Drill,” in which he famously slides a credit card between the cheeks of a video vixen’s bottom…  Critics position misogyny as hip-hop’s cardinal sin. … which raises the obvious question: How do women actively participate in a culture that seems to hate them so vehemently?”

That, and a lot of other questions, remain as the rise of hip hop emerges on campus.

Fix contributor Nicole Swinford is a student at Chapman University.

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A new law that took effect Jan. 1 in California allows students who are not in the country legally access to a variety of state-funded college tuition financial aid.

Assistance such as community college fee waivers, Cal Grants and similar aid is now open to non-legal residents, with awards of up to $12,200 a year for low- and middle-income students.

To be eligible for the money, students must graduate from a California high school after attending for at least three years, and meet financial and academic standards.

Supporters of the law downplay its financial significance in this cash-strapped state, citing widely circulated statistics that less than 1 percent of students in the California State University, University of California and community college systems are undocumented. They also insist that the new law, part of the California Dream Act, won’t eat into the pool of college aid given annually to legal citizens.

However the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analysis Office reports that the law will likely cost Californians $65 million a year by 2016. Critics say the law rewards breaking the rules and is an insult to foreign students who enter the country legally.

“We should reward those who respect our process instead of creating new incentives for those who don’t,” Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly said in a statement to the Riverside-based Press-Enterprise, which reported that about 20,000 people – less than one percent of college students – are expected to apply for the state-funded Cal Grants.

But Donnelly told the newspaper the law will take away money from students who are U.S. citizens, and that it goes against the wishes of California voters, citing a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll which found 55 percent of voters opposed the law and 40 percent supported it.

The poll also showed a huge ethnic divide, with 79 percent of Latinos supporting the law, compared with 30 percent of white supporters, the Press-Enterprise notes.

The latest law granting undocumented students Cal Grants and similar aid joins a growing number of perks for illegal immigrants in California. They are already eligible for reduced in-state tuition at campuses statewide, as state law offers tuition breaks to any student who has attended a California high school for three years, regardless of their immigration status.

What’s more, as of Jan. 1, 2012, they were granted access to private college scholarships funneled through public universities.

State immigration advocates such as Luz Gallegos argue that children should not be punished for the sins of their parents.

“There’s so much potential for them,” she told the Press-Enterprise. “It’s not their fault their parents brought them here undocumented.”

Others see it differently.

Kristen Williamson, a spokeswoman for Federation for American Immigration Reform, told the Los Angeles Times the law is “a reckless use of taxpayer money.” And Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman told the newspaper it “absolutely sends the wrong message. It says if you violate the law, it’s OK.”

Fix contributor Nicole Swinford is a student at Chapman University.

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A women’s history class frequently offered at Chapman University glorifies Margaret Sanger while it avoids her racist beliefs, highlights the feminist revolution while sidesteps the suffrage movement’s family values, and heralds Roe v. Wade and the advent of birth control, all while failing to cite the feminist counter-culture movement.

That’s not only not surprising, it’s expected, as classrooms in colleges across America are used to recruit young women into the feminists ranks, says Carrie Lukas, managing director of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum.

“The purpose here is to advance the feminist movement,” Lukas says. “The college classroom is a recruitment tool.”

Lukas, author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism,” says the vast majority of women studies classes do not offer fair and balanced approaches to the subject. It’s not unheard of for professors to skip relevant information, slant lesson plans, or skew lectures.

The course at Chapman University, a small liberal arts college in California, is a prime example of that.

When the course was taught in the spring, one student questioned its professor about Margaret Sanger’s widely reported racist beliefs after the professor finished praising the feminist for her work with birth control.

“Yes,” the professor admitted. “But a lot of people were at that time.”

In effect, the professor rendered Sanger’s background as a geneticist who supported the use of birth control and abortion to reduce minority populations moot.

The suffragettes’ pro-family values were also never broached in the class. Meanwhile, a disproportionate amount of of time was spent on the feminist revolution and the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

The fact that Norma McCorvey, the original Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, has since recanted her claim that she was raped and needed an abortion, and is now a spokeswoman for the prolife movement, also was not raised during the class.

The class at Chapman follows a formula feminists use to garner support, Lukas says.

Take, for example, the left-leaning National Women’s Studies Association, which states in the preamble to its Constitution that it is“committed to being a forum conducive to a dialogue and collective action among women dedicated to feminist education and change.”

The association is not shy about its connection with and dependence on the feminist movement, declaring that “women’s studies owes its existence to the movement for the liberation of women.” And in turn, female professors help feed into that “feminist education and change.”

But this promotion of only one perspective is a disservice to women, Lukas says.

“College is a time when you should be learning to evaluate things on your own,” she says. “This is where we should have the opportunity to learn the benefits and weaknesses to both sides.”

And with all the recent talk about the war on women, perhaps the real war on women is the fact that they are not really learning their own history.

“The study of women and society should be robust and fascinating,” Lukas says. “It’s a shame to push one agenda. Truly a lost opportunity.”

Fix contributor Nicole Swinford is a student at Chapman University.

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An image of Obama with his arms outstretched and a crown of thorns on his head? Artistic expression.

A picture of the crucifix submerged in real urine? A work of art.

An Obama bobblehead in a jar of fake pee pee? An unacceptable outrage.

When the secular left insults images held dear to conservatives or Christians under the auspices of “artistic freedom of expression,” those who complain are shortsighted, uptight, uncultured, ignorant buffoons.

When those same secular leftists have the tables turned on them, the cry of outrage is swift and deafening.

Recently conservative provocateur Glenn Beck took aim at this hypocrisy with his now infamous “Obama in Pee Pee” piece of “art.” He submerged an Obama bobblehead in yellow liquid with plans to sell it, the proceeds benefitting charity.

As Beck’s website notes, the effort was “catalyzed by Michael D’Anouto’s painting titled, ‘Truth,’ which features a crucified Obama, and also parodies the controversial ‘artwork’ dubbed ‘Piss Christ’ that defaced a crucifix in a glass of urine.”

Most recently, “Piss Christ” was displayed this fall at a gallery in New York. Meanwhile, “Truth” is displayed at the Boston-based Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery through mid-December.

“Beck’s piece was meant to underscore the importance of adhering to the First Amendment and highlight the hypocrisy of those who adhere to it only when it suits them,” Beck’s website, TheBlaze.com, states. “Often, members of the left will rail against the disparaging of figures they hold dear, but do not hold themselves to the same standard when disparaging figures others hold dear.”

Reaction to Beck’s lesson in the two-can-play-at-that-game cultural First Amendment parody included people on social media calling him every name in the book and telling him he was going to hell. (Because going to hell is not a possible consequence of being disrespectful toward a religion, only when disrespecting Obama.)

Nowhere will you find a clearer demonstration of liberal hypocrisy than here, which is, of course, exactly what Beck was trying to demonstrate. The piece was put up for sale on eBay to raise money for charity, and within 30 minutes was removed by the website (it had already reached an $11,300 bid).

The stated reason eBay removed Beck’s art was because they do not allow the sale of human fluids. Note to eBay: no actual human fluids were part of the product; it was just water with food coloring.

The fact is despite all the talk of diversity, open-mindedness and tolerance, we are getting the exact opposite. When liberals talk of diversity what they’re really thinking about is skin color, not opinions or beliefs. It’s all about the image, not about the content. Open-mindedness only includes those who agree with them, and tolerance simply breeds intolerance in its name.

The hypocrisy is astounding, and the issue is simple. If society is going to allow something as foul as the crucifix drenched in actual urine to be displayed in a New York gallery and call it “art,” then a bobblehead in some dyed water should be able to be sold for charity on the Internet. This isn’t rocket science, and more to the point, our Constitution demands it be so.

Underscoring all this, the recent kerfuffle highlighted that bigotry against Christianity remains an acceptable form of prejudice in the United States.

Fix contributor Nicole Swinford is a student at Chapman University.

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Prominent gender and media studies professors from across the country converged recently to help host what was dubbed by organizers as a “Feminist, Anti-Racist Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” to create or influence dozens of entries on the online encyclopedia.

A Claremont Graduate University endowment fund sponsored the effort, which promoted creating and “improving” entries dedicated to: feminists; feminist theories; science studies; science, technology and society; human sexuality; artificial intelligence; and film theory; according to an email that announced the event to the Claremont Colleges community, as well as the “Edit-a-thon Wikipedia Page.”

“This event is … proposed because an increasing number of undergraduates are utilizing digital humanities techniques in their research, as well as studying and publishing their findings using the Internet and online spaces that can be hostile, sexist, hierarchical, overly entertainment-focused, and identity neutral,” states a blog post on the Claremont Digital Humanities website. “The Feminist/Anti-Racist Digital Humanities BLAIS project encourages more complicated expressions of difference and identity in online spaces.”

The event, also dubbed by organizers as “Wikistorm,” took place in late October at Claremont Graduate University in California.

Professors involved with the effort did not respond to emails fromThe College Fix seeking comment. With that, it remains unclear exactly what additions and changes were made to Wikipedia during the event.

The “Edit-a-thon Wikipedia Page,” however, listed 22 women involved in feminist theory and various science, society and technology studies who either needed a biographical entry created for them, or their current articles allegedly needed additions and edits.

The Edit-a-thon page also suggested editing famed philosopher Rene Descartes’ page, noting its contemporary reception category “could include critiques and debates, including feminist philosophers who have criticized Cartesian dualism and its legacies.”

Another of the subjects targeted by the “Wikistorm” included “human sexuality.”

It’s unclear what changes, if any, were made to the entry, but its introduction currently reads that “human sexuality … can refer to issues of morality, ethics, theology, spirituality or religion. It is not, however, directly tied to gender.” It also reads that “socio-cultural aspects of sexuality include … Christian views on avoidance of sexual pleasure.”

Wikistorm was open to the public,  and students were encouraged to attend and take part. Its agenda also included a roundtable discussion on “feminist, anti-racist approaches to technology,” according to organizers.

Educators who led the talk, according to organizers, included UC Irvine Women’s Studies Professor Kavita Philip, whose essays have been published in journals such as Postmodern Culture and Radical History Review, according to the college’s website.

Also slated to attend was UC San Diego’s Professor Elizabeth Losh, who teaches courses such as “media seductions” and “digital journalism,” the school’s website states.

Claremont’s Pitzer College Media Studies Professor Alexandra Juhasz was among the mix of leaders as well; Juhasz’ professor profile page links to a “media praxis” website that promotes “media for social change,” among other causes.

Also on tap for the Wiki edit-a-thon was Anne Balsamo, dean of the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York; Lisa Parks, a UC Santa Barbara Film and Media studies professor and an affiliate of the Department of Feminist Studies; and Lisa Cartwright, a UC San Diego gender studies professor.

When asked to address the appropriateness of the effort, in terms of editing Wikipedia to promote ideologies, Rod Leveque, assistant director of media and online relations for Claremont Graduate University, told The College Fix in an email he could not comment on the question because “I haven’t seen any information to suggest the premise is correct.”

He also stated he did not know how much university endowment money was provided to fund the endeavor.

“The edit-a-thon appears to be one workshop that is a piece of larger project aimed in part at helping graduate and undergraduate students from a wide range of disciplines, primarily in the humanities, learn how to experiment with digital scholarship and expression,” he stated. “I’m not sure I could break out the costs of this particular workshop from the funding of the larger endeavor, but the costs don’t appear to be substantial.”

The BLAIS grants come from an endowed fund established with private donations a few decades ago, Leveque said.

“Grants from this fund are awarded for projects that promote collaboration among faculty and students from across the borders of the various colleges that comprise the Claremont Colleges Consortium,” he said.

Indeed, more “Wikistorms” are in the offing, according to the inaugural effort’s organizers.

Assistant Editor Jennifer Kabbany contributed to this report.

Fix contributor Nicole Swinford is a student at Chapman University.

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Teachers unions argue that to help solve the nation’s education crisis, politicians should throw more money at the problem – but a system of charter schools in Arizona ranked among the best in the country debunks those claims.

The eight nondescript campuses are spread across the desert-laden state, and don’t offer fancy classrooms or flashy computers. There’s no school nurses or football fields. The system’s teachers are not even required to be certified in education.

But at least two BASIS charter schools are constantly ranked by annual surveys in U.S News and World Report and The Washington Post as among the best high schools in the nation, and they do it with less money and a different curriculum than their public school counterparts.

The trick, BASIS administrators say, is to raise the academic bar for students so that they are prepared to compete on a global level. The school doesn’t tolerate slackers, and hammers middle school students with knowledge that will equip them to not only excel at national standardized tests, but also the International General Certificate of Secondary Education exams.

“We educate at globally competitive standards,” says Mary Riner, Director of External Relations. “Our students are educated at the same level as the best schools in the world, including schools in Finland or China.”

In high school, it’s Advancement Placement classes or bust. Every high school student graduates having tested in at least six AP subjects, so many students enter college with plenty of accumulated credits and a strong grasp of the higher education workload.

The school’s motto is “a rigorous curriculum, student accountability, and knowledgeable and effective teachers,” and that last part is tackled in a rather unique way.

Most BASIS educators did not go to school to become teachers, nor are they required to be certified in education, but rather they’re experts in their given subjects, meaning they all hold at least a bachelor’s degree in the topic they teach. About 60 percent of BASIS teachers also hold either a master’s degree or doctorate in their subject matters as well.

What’s more, teachers are held to high accountability standards, meaning if their students don’t test well in the subjects they teach, their career at BASIS may be short-lived.

“The best technology in the classroom is a good teacher,” says Craig Barrett, chairman of BASIS schools.

They’re doing more with less as well.

In a 2010 national study of charter school funding, Arizona charter schools were receiving on average $7,597 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $9,576 for those students, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

“As a result, the state’s charter schools were receiving $1,979 per pupil – or 20.7 percent – less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students,” the alliance notes.

“We’re very efficient,” Riner said. “We have a very lean administrative body, the teachers share classrooms, there are no school nurses or big football fields. We attract really talented people in their given fields.”

Yet when education reform is raised, it invariably leads to the discussion of funding.  Democrats and public teachers unions like to argue that funneling more money into schools and giving students up-to-date technology are needed for improvement.

That’s not the case at BASIS, yet it’s successful.

A 2008 study by the Heritage Foundation found that simply an increase in funding for education does not result in increased student performance. Despite the fact that education spending is higher than ever, America’s student scores have remained stagnant.

Perhaps that is why the BASIS model is slowly catching on.

“It is working,” one reporter for The Economist wrote. “The BASIS schools rank at or near the top in most surveys of American public schools.”

Yet its expansion is slowed by government bureaucracy. Riner said there are only a handful of states in which BASIS can currently exist. Most state laws will not allow the charter school to hire the experts needed, insisting that the teachers need to be state certified. Many states will also not allow BASIS to force such stringent academic demands on students as well, she added.

Still, the BASIS model maintains that it is not necessarily the money that needs to keep rising, but rather the standards.

“The rest of the world has caught up with us in the past 50 years,” Riner said. “We need to raise our standards, and teach our children more, earlier. They can handle it.”

Fix contributor Nicole Swinford is a student at Chapman University.

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