I’m watching a show on VH1 called “Ice-T’s Rap School” and its premise parallels the mission of Music-in-Education in many ways. The show puts rapper Ice-T in a New York school, where he acts essentially as a MIE Teaching Artist: he designs his own curriculum, teaches regular classes, does some performing, and also attempts to integrate his lessons with material that students are already learning in other classes. Even in a 30 minute episode, I saw Ice-T work with students on many different levels: In one-on-one sessions to improve on the literary/rhyme elements of each student’s self-written lyrics; talking with students in a class setting about the moral and social implications of hip-hop & rap; modeling performance techniques; and working on the integration of rhyming and dance (and choreographing dance moves), just to name a few.
What’s most interesting to me about this show is that it seems to set itself aside from the whole “reality TV” thing by showing the entire learning process that Ice-T’s students have to go through. Whereas other shows might be content to focus their airtime on catfights between contestants, “Ice-T’s Rap School” stayed true to the educational aspect of the program. Furthermore, the popularity of the program, and its prominent place during weekday primetime (Thursday at 8:30pm) with a very famous artist, goes to show that Artist-Teacher-Scholars are indeed a part of the mainstream culture, whether we call them that or not.
As MIE Program Coordinator, I find myself explaining the merits of teaching artists and the Artist-Teacher-Scholar framework to many inquiring minds. And, until now, I often considered teaching artists to be on the fringe of the traditional model of what’s acceptable in public education. Seeing “Ice-T’s Rap School” has changed my mind: Clearly, Artist-Teacher-Scholars/Teaching Artists are not only acceptable for public education, but they are also at the forefront of interdisciplinary teaching and learning. I will be keeping an eye out for more examples of this in pop culture, and hopefully am also priming the pump for MIE to go primetime.