November 19, 2007 | The Nation

In the Magazine

November 19, 2007

Cover: Cover by Gene Case & Stephen Kling/Avenging Angels

Browse Selections From Recent Years














Like other prank campaigns, Stephen Colbert's bid for President promised
brilliant satire. It's a shame he's called it quits.

The San Diego wildfires should prompt political candidates to address the fact that communities across America are ill-equipped to deal with natural and unnatural disasters.

The Gap has been caught selling garments made by child slaves in India. It's enough to make you vomit all over your new denim jacket.

Phony FEMA press conference, France v. Rumsfeld, Stephen Colbert and remembering Randall Forsberg.

James Watson continues his long and well-documented history of baselessly biologizing social stereotypes.

With little Congressional scrutiny and nary a whimper of protest, the United States will soon establish permanent military bases in sub-Saharan Africa.

Illegal immigrants are the invisible victims of the California



Gen. Pervez Musharraf turns out to be just another crummy dictator. But he's our dictator--using the $10 billion in US aid to jail judges and lawyers, and give shelter Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Thanks, George.

Gone are the days of equal protection. Intense natural disasters like the California wildfires are being met with a new model: privatized disaster response.


The oppression of Muslim women is a major theme among the Islamofascistly aware. If only they felt the same about other women on earth.

These days, even London and Paris seem a bit like North Korea.

Huckabee wins the prize for "Mr. Congeniality" hands down...whatever else you might say about him.


Democrats gained steam in Tuesday's off-year elections, making it even more obvious that two significant Southern states are up for grabs in 2008.

At the eighteenth annual Bioneers Conference, environmentalists and social activists are creating alliances that allow the poor to share the promise of a greening America.

How often can the Bush Administration be caught off guard by the
consequences of its own actions? Endlessly, it seems.

How can the left be as adept as the right-wing spin machine at communicating its political agenda? Learn how to use the tools.

The city has backed away from its longstanding commitment to avoid procuring city workers' garments from offshore sweatshops.

The time is right for a Great Debate on America's purpose and place in the world. But neither Republicans nor Democrats seem up to the task.

It's time to undo the damage and reaffirm America's historical commitment to international law.

Most candidates have no idea what it involves.

Mideast policy must include development.

US diplomacy in the Middle East has been held hostage by a refusal to engage with these two popular movements.

American politicians should stop implying that Muslim nations and individuals are more dangerous than any other group of human beings. They should also stop calling their religion "fascist."

To change Iran's behavior, we must first change our own.

Candidates should rethink their commitment to outmoded security tools and veiled nuclear threats against nonnuclear states.

As America became mired in Iraq, the rest of the world moved on. Yet neither political party seems ready to face the fundamental economic, environmental and geopolitical changes.

The 2008 election, more than any election in decades,
will turn on questions of foreign policy and national security.

Books & the Arts


Hip-hop star M.I.A. broadcasts the sound of those with one foot in the First World and the other in the global South.


The Surrealist dissident Raymond Queneau turned his writings into a lab for his experiments, and the results are still exhilarating.


The contradictions of parliamentary democracy in India have been a constant source of struggle and rich debate.

3rd Party Article

Tony Muhammad

November 2, 2007

As a public school educator that grew up on hip-hop and who still loves many aspects of its cultural elements, I often incorporate it into my day to day lessons. Sometimes my opening activities would involve having my students critically analyze some form of controversy related to their favorite rappers or an explanation of the meaning of a quote by an influential personality such as KRS-One, Chuck D or Afrika Bambaataa. Our meaningful discussions would then be tied in with the lessons of the day. Art and poetry would be included in much our comprehensive learning activities, which the students have admitted to me help them understand historical events and complex words better. I have found that since I have been teaching this way it has increased both student interest and involvement in a major way.

Of course, things were not always this way. I like many other teachers who grew up on Yo! MTV Raps and the highly critical social commentary that hip-hop provided in the late '80s/early '90s were taught once we got into college that we should "put that silly thing away." And so, the indoctrination process began! I remember being ridiculed by various professors for "looking" and "dressing" hip-hop. Even though I expressed myself always, by many standards, in a very articulate and academic manner, I was made fun of in front of my peers in a second semester English class.

The professor, whose husband she clearly and proudly emphasized was related to the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., chided me publicly for using what she termed as "pedestrian" (street) language in my research papers. Being confused (and paranoid) by what she was saying about me, I turned to my elders and had them read my writings. They all agreed that something was wrong with this professor of mine and assured me that my writing style was fine. Two years later, at the university level, I found myself in a position where I was frequently informed that my hip-hop should be "put in the closet somewhere." Even in Black Studies classes I was criticized by professors for arguing that hip-hop music was having a strong international influence on young people and was a very powerful instrumental to spread the message of Pan-Africanism and Black solidarity as taught by leaders such as Marcus Garvey, The Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X and The Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Even though my attitude through all of these experiences was without compromise, I would be lying if I said that they didn't affect me. When I finished graduate school and finally stepped into the real world of teaching in an inner-city classroom, I did what most educators nowadays do and probably what those professors wanted me to do all along. That is, I separated myself from the content of what I was teaching and the cultural realities of my students. The increasing corporate "dumbification" of hip-hop music, which my students were infatuated with, was an easy encouragement for me to not bridge the gap, because it was so far removed from the intellectual and culturally creative aspects of the music and overall way of life I grew up on. My highly apathetic relationship with the school system and my students continued for three years.

At the beginning of my fourth year of teaching, I decided that it was time for a change both in my attitude and approach to education. I made an effort now not to judge my students so harshly for the views and attitudes they had. In my painful observations I noticed that their twisted reality was not only reflected in the type of music they listened to or the poor TV programming they so frequently tuned into, but also the lifestyles that their parents and other adults (in some cases other teachers) were modeling for them. Too many adults around our children have compromised planting little seeds of wisdom on their minds in the name of looking "good" and "young." They listen to the same music as their children, use the same language as their children, dress the same way as their children and try too much to be their children's friends. With conditions like this, it is no wonder why our children are doing so poorly not only in school but in life.

Overall, there is no guidance. As a beginning step in attempt to counter this, I began to have open dialogue with the students about the kind of music they listen to and the type of TV programs they were watching. I also began to expose them to the kind of music and culture that inspired me in my own upbringing. This has resulted in a stronger level of openness on their part to receive my feedback. Avoiding doing to them what was done to me in my college experience, I always make sure that our dialogue is clear of judgment and more oriented towards questioning them and having them become more critical of their own mentality, behaviors and cultural influences (including music and TV programming) that greatly impact their lives today.

Very recently I was blessed with the opportunity to teach at a Miami-Dade County Public School teacher workshop for African American History Advocates. I taught the teachers a lesson that I already taught my own students, which will soon be included in the school system's new African American Voices Curriculum. It was called KRS-One Meets Carter G. Woodson. In this experience, I had the teachers compare and contrast what was said by KRS-One in the song "You Must Learn" with the teachings of Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History.

As I played "You Must Learn" I saw many teachers smile and bounce their heads to the beat, reciting the lyrics apparently by memory. Afterwards I asked how many of them had heard the song and grew up on hip-hop. More than half excitedly raised their hands. I asked them what they were doing to bridge the gap between themselves and their students. "Aren't you showing them the great things that inspired you while growing up?" I followed. Dead silence was the answer.

It then became obvious to me that there were countless other educators out there who were inspired by hip-hop while growing up just as I was who were finding it extremely difficult to get through many of their students. It also became clear that they were taught, just as I, whether consciously or unconsciously, that they should store Hip Hop away in some closet and find some other way to connect or "bridge the gap" with their students.

Today there are many bright and talented hip-hoppers that have entered the teaching profession. Those that have experienced great difficulty to get their students to achieve has very little to do with their level of brightness or talent. Their problems lie in the level of enthusiasm and creativity that they bring into the classroom that have resulted from them falling in line with the belief that hip-hop has no place within educational boundaries. This has been intensified by a ridiculous amount of standardized testing in the public schools, which have forced teachers to almost strictly devote all of their class time to monotonous instruction on how to pass the tests. Certainly, by stripping away the opportunity to be themselves, teachers can not function as real teachers. They become more like robots serving a system that does very little to inspire the creativity and critical thought of our children. Then we wonder why so many teachers nowadays do not last any more than two or three years working within the system.

With the blessings of all educators who seek inspiration from this message, I plan to make this a monthly column that will serve to provide ideas to promote change within the school classroom and the larger classroom of the world. Suggestions, questions and comments can be e-mailed to hiphopeducator19 at gmail.com. Feedback is especially welcomed by other educators that are already involved in wonderful projects that involve using hip-hop as a tool to reach out to our youth.

I thank you for your attention, love and support.

From running a recording studio to organizing shows to raising money, the Ann Arbor-based Neutral Zone has been more successful at developing youth leadership than any other teen organization in the country.