Is Jay Z Appropriate Middle School Curriculum?


/ September 28, 2013

Conservative parents in Mississippi are in an uproar over a class assignment involving Jay Z. Sixth grade students at Desoto Central Middle School were assigned to write about the life and times of the Brooklyn rapper turned mogul. The project was part of a curriculum focusing on overcoming life’s challenges that also included Nelson Mandela, Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman and Blindside hero Michael Oher, British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and August Pullman, the main character from the book Wonder, who has a facial deformity.

One angry parent called in Fox News to vent her frustration over the assignment, citing Jay Z’s “thug life” past as inappropriate content for the middle school assignment.

“One of the songs listed on the paper that was brought home was ‘Big Pimpin’,” she told Fox News’ conservative political commentator Todd Starnes. “Another song talked about thug life. My child was getting an education about thug life.”

The school’s principal, Duane Case, says the course has been taught as is for the last three years and in those three years only received two complaints. “We are not promoting the way he talks. We are not promoting what he’s done in life,” Case told Memphis’ WREG. Additionally, students were only asked to dissect his life from a write-up on, not his actual music. is generally, across America, a kosher online stop for research for students. An outtake from the site reads: “During a rough adolescence, detailed in many of his autobiographical songs, Shawn Carter dealt drugs and flirted with gun violence.” It also does reference his songs “Can I Get A …,’ ‘Big Pimpin’,’ ‘I Just Wanna Love U,’ ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.)’ and ’03 Bonnie & Clyde,’ a duet with future bride Beyoncé Knowles.”

Case argues that the assignment doesn’t “glorifying anything” that Jay Z has done. “If we study the holocaust that doesn’t mean that we are glorifying Hitler,” he argues, making a good point. The whole purpose of the assignment was to show students how several people overcame obstacles in life when things got tough to reach their success. However, Case says that they might pull Jay Z from the list when the topic is taught again next year.

So, the question is, is Jay Z appropriate content for 11-year-olds? In a day and age where Miley Cyrus scantily twerks onstage, and the nightly news shows images of the Kenyan mall massacre or aftermath of a Syrian chemical attack, should 11-year-olds be taught about Jay Z if it pertains to his rags to riches story? These days when laptops, YouTube and cell phones feed kids’ short attention spans, does putting something on the curriculum that’s current and pop culture help engage their focus, or does a dead poet from 19th century Great Britain do it better?

It’d be interesting to hear what Jay Z thinks. Let us know what you think in the comments below.