Sunday, March 2, 2014

Relevant Macro-Structures and Black History Month

I am preparing for my final project submission for the Coursera course instructed by Dave Levin, KIPP co-founder, labeled Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms.  It's a focus on how character strengths, in addition to academics, serve as building blocks for positive life outcomes.

February is known in the United States as Black History Month.  It should be a time when Americans stop and self reflect on history and culture of black America.  But, most of the month is spent highlighting the successes of African Americans.  Not so much on the indiscretions of history past. And that is because times have changed and racial issues are often openly addressed. 

This February aired a four part documentary on VH1 called "The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip Hop.".  The TV show is appropriately adopted from Steve Stoute's book The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy. It is a genius chronicle on how hip-hop has changed American culture for the better.  

But, my connection is directly related to my Coursera course hosted by Mr. Levin on character strengths. What if... the documentary was used to teach zest, grit, self-control, hope, gratitude, love and social intelligence.  It certainly qualifies as a macro-structure.  Black history month focuses solely on lives of African-Americans.  And who is always the main topic of concern when discussing the achievement gap?  yes, African-American and other minority students. Minority students can easily relate to the artist featured.  They already know who they are and mostly likely own the music and films they've created.  They'll instantly respect and connect to their ideas and contributions. 

The character strengths that the artist and entrepreneurs talk about and emulate can be directly contributed to their past, present and future success. Lessons developed around their struggles and successes can be connected to having the above character strengths.  It's a win-win and a relevant, real world scenario for most minority students.  Now I must find the time to write the lesson plan.

This is just an idea that popped into my head as I watched the documentary and made the connections to the character strengths the hip-hop pioneers had to have in order to persevere.  Just being black in America takes grit.