Should Jay-Z Be Taught At Universities?
The Washington Post’s recent profile of the Georgetown University course, “Sociology of Hip Hop—Urban Theodicy of Jay Z,” has sparked a debate on the internet over the nature of higher education, whether hip hop belongs in academia, and whether Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson is the best source of hip-hop insight.
Dyson suggests that the class uses Jay Z as a window into the philosophy, art, and economics of hip hop culture and society. (Perhaps he felt that the mogul was more deserving of academic study than Jersey Shore.) He also tells the Post that he wants students to “appreciate that young, black people in America who have often been stigmatized as unintelligent, demonized as inferior intellectually, can produce superior art.”
But Dyson pushes his students to look deeply at the popular music. “This is not a class meant to sit around and go, ‘Oh man, those lyrics were dope,’” he says.
Music magazine Spin criticizes Dyson’s “impenetrable jargon,” while gossip site Gawker accuses him of fabricating mythologies for Jay-Z and Tupac, saying “neither of them are one of rap’s greatest lyricists.”
Other internet commentors scorn the class as part of a larger critique of college and especially liberal arts degrees, saying students would be better served by vocational training, or business or engineering classes.
(By the way, a “theodicy” is a philosophic and religious study of God and evil.)
What do you think? Does hip hop belong in the classroom? Does Jay-Z, and if not, who does?