Texas textbooks erase hip-hop from our cultural narrative
Much has already been made of Texas’s effort to re-write history by offering students a more conservative, decidedly Christian version of American history with new curriculum changes that whitewash our nation’s founding and all of the moments since.
And anyone with a stake in living in a world where kids come out of school with a fair and realistic understanding of the world is right to be infuriated by many of the changes: references to slavery as the less-horrific-sounding “triangular trade” and the expungement of Thomas Jefferson, that champion of church-state separation, are among the most egregious. But alteration’s to the nation’s cultural narrative – though it’s not the basic Founding Fathers/Civil War/Cold War narrative we typically expect of history and social studies – are just as troubling.
Most notably, the biggest musical and cultural force of the past 30 years, hip-hop, will get no mention. Hip-hop might only be seen by the white administrators instituting the Texas curriculum changes as the domain of scary black gangstas, but it’s undeniable that the medium has grown from a humble cluster of breakdancers in the Bronx to an unshakable cultural entity that touches every corner of society.
So, could the gaping omission of hip-hop from any classroom discussion of culture and society backfire on school officials because it’s so obvious? Kids might not know enough about the revolutionary period to understand that Jefferson’s absence is laughable, but surely they’ll be able to recognize – in this age of iPods and cell phone ringtones – that the music they listen to, the movies they watch, the way they talk, and the clothes they buy all revolve around a genre that their schoolbooks tell them doesn’t exist.
Fortunately, hip-hop is so pervasive that kids will get their education about it from the rest of the world. Too bad you can’t say the same for Cesar Chavez, Thomas Jefferson or Malcolm X.