Sometimes, when teachers try to be “down with the kids,” it’s downright eye-roll-worthy. But when English teacher Brian Mooney did it, it was inspiration. Brian, a teacher from New Jersey, used Kendrick Lamar’s latest album. To Pimp A Butterfly, as a way to connect his students to their reading list, especially Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Both writers speak to identity, and oppression in a world of white supremacy.
Brian documented his teachings in a blog post, and this caught the eye of none other than Kendrick Lamar himself. He was so flattered that he took it upon himself to pay the high school a surprise visit, and he talked to NBC News about the honor of his words being used in a classroom setting:
I didn’t think I made it for a 16-year-old. So when a 16-year-old is intrigued by it, it lets me know how so far in advance as a society we actually are. And that inspired me on a whole ‘nother level…A lot of times we’re put in these positions where we don’t know we’re role models. And just off the simple fact — whether we want to be a role model or not — just the simple fact that we come from these Urban communities, these harsh worlds and we’re on TV and kids are looking at us, we’re already influence.
He says, poignantly, that “the music is not just about me anymore.” Brian couldn’t agree more. Brian also spoke to NBC, saying:
One of the most important elements of hip hop is something called “knowledge of self,” which a lot of hip hop historians will talk about. And that’s so educational. That’s talking about identity. And so, it’s less of matter of using hip hop to trick kids into learning, but it’s more of an actual frame work for teaching and learning.
We think every high school should have a Brian, and maybe a Kendrick as well? A girl can dream.