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Hip-Hop Fridays: Educators Are Down With Rap Music by Cynthia Kopkowski

Audition committees at district arts schools shouldn't discriminate against a candidate firing out a hip-hop composition by rapper Missy Elliott in favor of one singing a Mozart aria, according to an informal consensus reached this week by the school board.

The board took a break from its usual discussion of construction spending and personnel policies Wednesday for an impromptu cultural debate about the merits of rap music as an art form.

After board member Debra Robinson called for its use as audition material and possible teaching tool in schools, her colleagues agreed by consensus that they've never explicitly said it, but there's nothing preventing students from using rap to audition if principals approve.

"I always think we need to capture the children's attention where they are and bring them to where they need to be," Robinson said.

Not everyone thinks encouraging students to channel their inner Snoop Dogg during school hours is a great idea.

Detective Robert Walton, the head of the school police employees union, was incensed when Robinson held up a book of slain rapper Tupac Shakur's lyrics Wednesday and called it poetry that could engage children in reading.

"He advocates drug usage, denounces women and celebrates violence," Walton said of the artist, whose lyrics often focused on the bleakest aspects of life in poverty- and crime-ridden urban communities. "I'm disgusted. The members of our association are disgusted."

Board member Sandra Richmond said she has heard "some very fine rap" but stopped short of advocating its use in academics.

Chairman Tom Lynch said principals should retain the right to use or not use rap music.

"Some of the rap that I hear is so disgusting," Lynch said.

Students are already using rap for Dreyfoos and Bak Middle schools of the arts auditions, according to administrators at both schools.

"Often within a rap piece there is a melody which allows (judges) to see how the child does," Principal Liz Perlman said. "It will also show a lot about their ability to deal with rhythm. The same thing is true for dance."

As at Bak Middle, students auditioning at Dreyfoos are expected to keep their performances clean. The school receives phone calls throughout the year from parents wondering whether rap is appropriate for their children to use, magnet coordinator Laurie Marshall said.

"Teachers and instructors would monitor for anything with inappropriate language for a school facility," Marshall said, adding that rap is an increasingly popular form of creative expression for a wide range of students. "Rap music transcends any particular population."

Cynthia Kopkowski is a Palm Beach Post Staff Writer and can be contacted at:

Note: This article first appeared at: The Palm Beach Post

Friday, April 23, 2004

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