Why Do We Need Hip-Hop Pedagogy in Teacher Education Now?

By Phil Kitchel posted 08-07-2023 06:00 AM


By Lin Wu

The author wrote the article “Enacting Hip-Hop Pedagogy for Joy and Justice” in Volume 87, Issue 3 of KDP’s The Educational Forum. It is available free in the month of August.

Six years after President Barack Obama left the White House, many states are actively censoring the teaching of historical truth in their K–16 institutions. The white backlash against racial progress is disturbing yet not surprising, given the racist foundations of the United States. Teacher educators who genuinely care for the profession’s sustainability are standing at the crossroads of succumbing to neofascist politics and taking up the battle against white supremacy. Hip-Hop pedagogy can light the path forward.

My article in the recent Educational Forum situates this pedagogical framework in the genealogy of multicultural education and articulates how hip-hop culture can engage students in better learning academic content and attend to their social–emotional well-being. I synthesize five tenets of hip-hop pedagogy from previous research and praxis to study my work with teacher candidates at a predominantly white institution on the West Coast. They are:

  1. Staying fresh to sync with evolving pedagogical knowledge

  2. Sampling and mixing funds of knowledge

  3. Coteaching to empower students

  4. Authentic storytelling to heal personal wounds

  5. Cultivating joy through artistic expressions

As a Chinese immigrant who grew up listening to hip-hop and other music genres in Mandarin Chinese and English, I’ve used elements of hip-hop (e.g., rapping) to teach students of Color in an urban public charter school in Southern Arizona. Through my work I have come to recognize that good teaching transcends racial boundaries. By analyzing my multicultural education course curricula, assessments, teaching reflections, and student engagements, I show how to use experiential and academic repertoire to enact hip-hop pedagogy for joy and justice. Specifically, I encourage teacher candidates to co-create lessons with me, try diverse teaching techniques, and connect lived realities with academic theories. My vulnerable counterstories and sense of humor create a conducive environment where students heal personal wounds and locate communal joy.

Given the current U.S. political climate and the worsening conditions of the teaching profession, teacher education programs are morally obligated to strategize how to prepare the best teachers to serve all students, especially students of color. My article is an invitation to teacher educators and colleagues on how to model struggling with integrity and finesse and sustain joy in times of despair. Instead of waiting for a miracle, teacher educators must act now to turn the U.S. racial compass toward justice. We can start doing so by enacting hip-hop pedagogy in our own classrooms.

Dr. Lin Wu is an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Western Oregon University. A first-generation college student and immigrant from China, Lin’s research interests include race and empire, Asian diasporas, and multicultural teacher education.