At E.C. Glass High School, students in Casey Wood’s class are exploring Hip-Hop history and literature, and rap every Friday.
The year-long “Exploring Hip-Hop” course was proposed by Wood last year when teachers were asked about new ideas for electives. He sent an outline to the school board in Lynchburg City, and said that the members “called my bluff.”
Not only did the board buy books and resources for the class, but they also approved an additional section to be held at Heritage High School.
Students learn about the genre and how it originated. “It isn’t just come in here and listen to music all day,” said Joey Taylor, asenior. “We actually come in and learn. I’ve learned a lot of stuff that I didn’t know before.”
Wood is the faculty leader for the E.C. Glass student rock band. He is an English teacher and originally thought the class could be a way to teach students about the music industry and prepare them for a career. When over 100 students signed up, he decided to make it a survey style class, focusing on history and literature.
“My thought process kind of changed because I don’t think that many kids want to be rappers or producers — they may just want to learn about the culture,” Wood said.
According to Lynchburg College literacy education assistant professor Autumn Dodge, it is important for students to learn about things that interest them in school as it offers not only motivation, but makes the students experts in the classroom. A hip-hop class “taps into cultural assets that students have outside of class that might not always match with the kind of learning or ways of expressing that are valued in the traditional classroom.”
“Twenty years ago, people would kind of scoff at that and didn’t really even think of it as literature,” she said.