In the forthcoming Fall Semester, Ohio University will launch a new program within the Patton College of Education called Hip-Hop OHIO Patton Education, or HOPE.
The HOPE program has two components. The first focuses on preparing future educators to work with diverse K-12 students and emphasizes building a culturally relevant curriculum: specifically, using hip-hop culture to create healthy relationships and facilitate student engagement. This component also examines inequities within the education system that lead to the opportunity gap and disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates of marginalized students.
The second component is designed to recruit diverse teacher candidates to pursue education. Lisa Harrison, associate professor of middle childhood education and the middle childhood program coordinator at OU, is a co-developer of the program.
"The teaching field is majority white, with about 80 percent of teachers being white and only 2 percent being Black males," Harrison said in an email. "At the same time, the K-12 student population is becoming more diverse each year, with more than half of students in K-12 spaces being from a culturally diverse background."
Harrison said traditional education programs do not effectively recruit diverse students for many reasons. Some include students feeling isolated in the classroom and not connecting with conventional teacher education curriculum. HOPE's vision is it needs to be innovative to recruit diverse college students while preparing high-quality teachers.
"The HOPE program's main focus is on preparing all teachers, regardless of their race, to work with the growing diverse student population,” Harrison said in an email. “The program, with its emphasis on hip-hop-based education and social justice, also hopes to inspire college students who might not have considered education as a field.”
Jason Rawls, educator, music producer and DJ, is also a co-developer of the program. Rawls helped create the HOPE program to encourage educators to teach without excluding who students are.
"You know, there are a lot of (people who) don't let kids be who they are because we are trying to mold them into something else," Rawls said. "That's not the way to go about it. What we say is that kids come in with a sort of cultural currency; they don't come in like blank slates."
The hip-hop aspect of the program was inspired by pop culture.
"Nowadays, people my age are teachers, and they're part of the hip-hop generation. They grew up on hip-hop," Rawls said. "Well, here's the cool thing: the kids that they're teaching, they're also growing up on hip hop. And that is the first time something like that is happening if you think about it."
The HOPE program's primary goal is to use hip-hop to change the narrative of teacher-student relationships in the classroom.
"Hip-hop crosses cultural boundaries, so I don't see why we're not using that in education to help attract our kids," Rawls said. "If you can increase and build teacher-student relationships, then you increase student engagement. You increase scores. You increase everything because students want to do better."
Rawls said students’ motivation in school should focus on being intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Typically, students are motivated to do work by getting a reward. Instead, students should be encouraged out of respect for the teacher and, in turn, they will help themselves.
"Teachers should learn," Rawls said. "I learned from my students every day. You learn just how to be a better person many times. That's what I love the most: they keep me young. They keep me informed."
Students can enroll in HOPE classes during spring registration for the fall. The course is available within the Patton College of Education and will be open for any major to take as an elective.
"We also want this program to bring attention to Ohio University as HOPE is the only program of its kind that exists in the nation," Harrison said. "While there are colleges of education that might offer a course on hip-hop-based education, to our knowledge, there are no current colleges that offer an entire program."