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Fall 2016

Hip Hop Harvard Teaches One Size Mos Def Doesn't Fit All

Hip Hop Harvard Teaches One Size Mos Def Doesn't Fit AllWhen Audrey walked up to the mic on the stage of Askwith Hall and started telling her story, a story that included memories of abuse and getting kicked out of several schools, she had to stop a few times to compose herself. It wasn’t because she was nervous — it was because she felt so strongly about her time as a student at the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Finally,” she told the crowd, “people who treated me like I was their own.” This past spring, Audrey was part of a group of students and administrators from Hip Hop High, as it’s known, who visited the Ed School for two days to share stories and make music. The school offers at-risk young people from the St. Paul area a chance to earn a high school diploma while learning about the music business. The school includes two onsite professional recording studios. More than 90 percent of the students, including Audrey, have had rocky pasts at other schools. At any given time, 60 percent are homeless or from highly mobile families.

While at Harvard, the students not only spoke and performed in Askwith, but also spent time at an on-campus studio in Harvard Yard where they recorded a new song, “In the Morning,” with the help of Mike Lipset, Ed.M.’16, who was a student at the Ed School at the time and who helped organize their visit. Lipset worked at Hip Hop High prior to coming to Harvard. Asked what lessons educators could learn from the students and the work being done at Hip Hop High, Lipset says:

  1. Culturally relevant education may not look or sound like what you think it should. What assumptions are you making about the ways young people should be educated?
  2. Strong relationships between students and educators can mean the difference between dropping out and graduating from high school.
  3. Vocational/technical education can enrich the delivery of the Common Core.
  4. When you believe in and value the talents and sources of knowledge your students possess, you receive the gift of watching them change the world.
  5. School choice means different schools offering different kinds of learning opportunities for different people. There is no onesize- fits-all answer in education. 

Watch "In the Morning," the video the students made in Ed. Extras.