Monthly Archives: November 2012

Tell Your Sons: College Educated Hip Hop Artists

The next time your son tells you he doesn’t need to study because he plans to be a rap star, you can tell him that he should follow in the footsteps of some well-known rappers who managed to do both. Here are some artists who have either graduated from or attended college. Some of these names may well surprise you.

College Graduates:

J.Cole: Graduated with honors from St. John’s University in New York City with a major in communications.

Ludacris: Graduated from Georgia State University with a major in music management.

Chuck D (Public Enemy): Graduated from Adelphi University with a degree in graphic design.

Attended College:

Two Chainz: Attended Alabama State University and played for their basketball team for one year. Transferred to Virginia State for his sophomore year. Not clear whether he graduated from Va. State, but rumor has him graduating from college with a 4.0 average. Whether this is truth or urban legend is hard to determine, but if there must be rumors, this is a good one.

Lil Wayne: Attended University of Houston, where he studied psychology. Currently takes classes online at the University of Phoenix.

Kanye West: Of course the creator of the albums “The College Dropout” “Late Registration” and “Graduation” went to college! He attended Chicago State University (where his mother was Chair of the English Department) and Columbia College in Chicago.

Sean Combs: Attended Howard University.

OK, for you non hip-hop loving parents, your homework is to familiarize yourself with the music of all of the artists above that you don’t know. You are likely to know the old school guys, like Chuck D and Ice Cube, and everyone talks about Lil Wayne, P.Diddy and Kanye West, but take a minute to check out their music, if you haven’t done so in a while. Also check out the newer guys. Why? Because hip hop is an international cultural phenomenon born in the U.S.A. that you should not ignore. You don’t have to love it, but since your children are growing up on it, you should pay some attention to it. (Also, you can really impress (or annoy) your sons with your newfound knowledge.) It is worth the investment of a few minutes of your time on

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Filed under Academics, Entertainment

Go See “Rise of the Guardians” this weekend!!!

“Rise of the Guardians”, the latest animated film from DreamWorks, opens tomorrow, November 21st. This tale of how Jack Frost, Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny band together to save children everywhere marks the directorial debut of Peter Ramsey, the first African American director of a big budget computer animated film. In an earlier GCP post we described Ramsey’s unusual and inspirational journey to this point. (See, “Who is Peter Ramsey? You and Your Kids Are About to Find Out”, October 6, 2012) From early reports, this movie is poised to join the blockbuster ranks, with Ramsey at the helm.

As we all know, movies tend to sink or swim on opening weekend box office, so if you are planning to take your children to see this movie, by all means do it this holiday weekend. Treat your kids to a fun adventure, and support the brother in charge!!

Speaking of folks in charge at DreamWorks, it should also be noted that Mellody Hobson has just been named Chair of the Board of DreamWorks Animation. Hobson is President of Chicago-based Ariel Investments. Ariel, which manages more than $3 billion in assets, is among the largest African American-owned money management and mutual fund companies in the United States. Kudos to Mellody Hobson and DreamWorks.

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Filed under Entertainment, Films

Hip Hop Science Teachers Spreading the Word

You may recall an earlier GCP post describing Wu Tang Clan member GZA’s work on his album “Dark Matter”, which focuses on his interest in science. (“The Latest Lesson from Hip-Hop…Science!” May 31, 2012.) An article in today’s NY Times reports that GZA has recently teamed up with a Columbia professor and the website Rap Genius to use hip-hop to teach science in 10 New York City public schools. Dr. Christopher Edmin, an assistant professor of science education at Columbia’s Teachers College and a huge hip-hop fan, met GZA when they were both on a radio show hosted by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium. Their mutual interest in using hip-hop to encourage students’ interest in science led them to create this pilot science education program which will launch early next year.

As the article found here notes, GZA and Dr. Edmin are focused on using the rhythms and the social practices of hip-hop to keep students interested in science and better able to retain what they learn. According to Dr. Edmin, a good rapper has already acquired many of the skills required for success in science: curiosity, keen observation, an ability to use metaphor and draw connections. Furthermore, he notes, the way in which hip hop rhymes are shared, usually in a circle with one participant picking up the rhyme when another stops (also known as a hip-hop “cypher”), encourages and positively rewards good participation. Says Edmin, “All of those things that are happening in the hip-hop cypher are what should happen in an ideal classroom.”

Starting in January, the 10 schools will work with cyphers and rhymes to teach basic science concepts one day per week, with support from Dr. Emdin and his graduate students. The science students will write rhymes rather than papers; the best rhymes, as judged by GZA, will appear on Rap Genius, alongside lyrics of popular hits. (For those of you uninitiated in the ways of, not only does it provide the lyrics to countless hip hop songs, but by clicking on various lines from the song you can get a detailed interpretation of what that particular rhyme means. Not only is it a popular site for legit hip-hop enthusiasts, but it is also a great resource for those of us aging music fans who appreciate hip hop but have no idea what the artists are talking about much of the time.) The science program is part of a broader educational movement to use students’ outside interests to engage them in class work.

I can already hear the murmuring about whether hip-hop is a legitimate teaching tool, and how our children should not be the guinea pigs for this kind of experimental learning. But as the article explains, this is a small program with a slow rollout, and I expect its effectiveness will be thoroughly assessed by Dr. Edmin and his team. So there will be time and effort spent determining whether this approach yields good results and how scalable the results can be. Besides, with all signs pointing to the STEM-focused industry as being the biggest future job provider for our children, and with a 35 point gap between the average scores of Black and white 8th graders in 2011 as reported here by the National Center for Education Statistics, we need to use every angle we can think of to encourage our sons (and daughters) to learn and succeed in science. GCP readers, what do you think?

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Filed under Math, Resources

Family Dinners: Building Bonds Over the Dinner Table

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, thoughts turn towards the family meal. Holidays aside, how often do you and your children eat dinner together as a family? After-school, sports and work schedules can make gathering for family meals tough to organize on a regular basis. But researchers at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University have identified a significant number of advantages to making time for family dinners. Their studies, released in 2005 after almost a decade of study, show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use. Seems like we should all work a bit harder to make these family meals happen more often.

When researchers looked at ethnic and racial breakdowns, they found that more than half of Hispanic teens ate with a parent at least six times a week, in contrast to 40% of black teens and 39% of whites. Interesting to note that the families with the least educated parents eat together the most; parents with less than a high school education share more meals with their kids than do parents with high school diplomas or college degrees. Family dinner gets better with practice; the more often a family eats together, the better the experience is likely to be. You can read more about “The Magic of the Family Meal” in a Time magazine article found here.

My entire family eats together periodically at best, due to our hectic schedules, but my boys eat together practically every night (and when their sister is home from college she joins them). I sometimes sit with them to catch up on their days even if I am not sharing the meal, and my husband will join us from time to time as well. There is something so comforting about sitting around the table together, a respite from our crazily busy days. While I can’t be sure that our periodic family dinners have provided all the benefits listed above, I can think of a few additional things I appreciate about the family meal:

Good Opportunity to Say “Thanks”. Our children have been blessing the table before eating for as long as they can remember. Reminding ourselves that we are thankful for the chance to be together and for the food we are about to eat is a great way to start the meal.

Dinner Time is Listening Time: This is a great time to catch up on what’s been happening in everyone’s lives. Not the headlines, but the feature stories. I generally hear some of the most interesting stories (and sometimes good scoop) during dinner time conversations.

Family Dynamics in Action: Family dinners provide a good opportunity to observe how members of the family interact, and to make mental note of any issues or attitudes among siblings which deserve closer attention after the meal.

Etiquette Rules: What better place to discuss (and model) good table manners and conversation etiquette? Good table manners don’t appear out of thin air, they need to be taught and reinforced. This is also a great place to help your family members discover (and try to eliminate) annoying habits like being a constant interrupter, hogging the conversation, or telling interminably long stories.

Thanksgiving is the family meal on steroids: major food production, major family togetherness. A day to focus on being together as a family, but probably not the best day to start any family dinner traditions, as the bar will be set way too high. After Thanksgiving, we all should try to make an effort to gather together at the table as a family more often.

GCP readers, how often do you eat family meals together? How has it benefited your family? Any tips for ensuring that it happens more regularly?


Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12

Messy Kids, Crazed Parents

“Teenage Bedroom as Battleground”, a recent NY Times article found here, offers parents advice on how to cope with their messy teens. Those of you who have figured out how to crack the whip at home so that your teens regularly pick up after themselves around the house and always keep their rooms neat without your intervention, skip to the end of this article and send us a comment detailing how you get this done. We want every detail. The rest of us can use this ten point guide to help us (and our teens) deal with the seemingly endless clutter.

Much of the advice offered in this article revolves around how to understand and deal with the mess more than how to get it cleaned up. Experts encourage parents to lose the anger, guilt and embarrassment surrounding their teen’s messiness, stop nagging, and focus on containing the mess to their bedroom rather than compulsively trying to eliminate it everywhere. Parenting psychobabble, you say? Maybe, but if at the end of the day you are exhausted from screaming at your teen and the room still stays messy, there is something to be said for having another perspective of the situation.

For the first few days that this article was on-line, the Times asked readers to send in pictures of their children’s messy rooms, and many parents responded. Not sure what motivated them to do so; perhaps it felt cathartic to share, or maybe it was a failed attempt to embarrass their teen into cleaning up (“clean your room or I’ll post a picture of it on the New York Times website!”) In any event, going this route seems a bit extreme to me, but it is interesting to see just how crazily messy some of these rooms are.

GCP readers, how do you get your children to clean up after themselves and keep their rooms neat? Do you go old school, shutting down all privileges until neatness prevails? That may work for a while, but how do you get them to maintain the order? All helpful tips are welcome!!

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents