Published October 06, 2010
The Oklahoma City public school district is taking a second look at a plan to teach at-risk students using rap and hip-hop after receiving complaints over one lesson referring to the Founding Fathers as "old dead white men."
The program, known as Flocabulary, is an educational tool that uses rap and hip-hop music to help students learn and memorize basic principles of vocabulary, reading, writing, social studies, math and science. The district was authorized to spend $97,000 in federal funds on the program and has already spent $10,000, NewsOK.com reported.
But lyrics in the U.S. history curriculum drew complaints from about 15 teachers, the site reported.
One particularly controversial song entitled "Old Dead White Men,"describes President James Monroe's presidential term by saying: "White men getting richer than Enron. They stepping on Indians, women and blacks. Era of Good Feeling doesn't come with the facts."
The song goes on to say:
"Andrew Jackson thinks he's a tough guy. Killing more Indians than there are stars in the sky. Evil wars of Florida killing the Seminoles. Saying hello, putting Creek in the hell holes. Like Adolf Hitler he had the final solution. 'No, Indians, I don't want you to live here anymore."
Flocabulary CEO and co-founder Alex Rappaport says that the lyrics are meant to keep students engaged and promote discussion. According to the Flocabulary website, its programs are being used in more than 10,000 schools nationwide and are "proven to increase student motivation."
“Without engagement and motivation it’s very difficult to learn, so our main purpose is to create materials that will motivate the students that are least likely to succeed with traditional methods,” Rappaport told FoxNews.com.
Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation, says in some cases those lyrics may do more harm than good.
"I just don't think we were real careful where we deployed it," Allen told NewsOK.com. "Not all parts of it are real affective for the more troubled youth."
Rappaport says Flocabulary isn’t meant to be offensive; it’s meant to get students thinking and initiate meaningful discussion.
"We have about 15 different programs, and on that U.S. history program we have about 12 songs and these are the lyrics that can be considered the most thought-provoking or provocative out of our whole body of work," Rappaport says.
"What I want is a student to hear a line about Andrew Jackson and be so engaged by the way we’re presenting Andrew Jackson that they go back, open the text book and read the entry about Andrew Jackson…and ask their teacher and have a discussion about Andrew Jackson," he added. "The songs are meant to be the beginning of the discussion, not the end."
Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Karl Springer told NewsOK.com, "The science behind the concept is wonderful," but out of concern for some of lyrics, the district is holding off on the program until it's been evaluated.