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Breakbeat Pedagogy

Hip Hop and Spoken Word Beyond the Classroom Walls


Brian Mooney

Breakbeat Pedagogy provides a groundbreaking framework for the inclusion of hip-hop culture in schools. Looking beyond the previous model of hip-hop-based education, Brian Mooney argues for school-wide hip-hop events, such as poetry slams, as the ideal site for students to engage in the elements of hip-hop culture. Working from the perspective of a classroom teacher, the author reflects on the story of Word Up!, a hip-hop and spoken word poetry event that began with students in a New Jersey high school. He makes the case for a pedagogy with the potential to transform urban schools and the way we think about them. This is essential reading for any teacher committed to social justice and culturally relevant education.
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Chapter 5. Breakbeat Pedagogy


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My break beat is to break away from yo thang. –Arrested Development

Student DJ plays beats for the crowd. (photo credit: Jose Flores) ← 51 | 52 →

Breakbeat Pedagogy: A Framework

The term “Hip Hop Hop–based education” (HHBE) has been used to describe the curricular and pedagogical uses of Hip Hop’s four elements—DJing, Breakdancing, Rapping, and Graffiti Art. However, the theoretical and practical applications of HHBE remain unclear and there is sufficient need to question, clarify, and reimagine what HHBE might look like in schools. There is no shortage of critics who deem this kind of teaching and learning as “gimmicky,” superficial, and ambiguous.

I propose a new framework, based on HHBE, which aims to clarify what this pedagogy looks like when a school more fully integrates the elements of Hip Hop via the performance art space. It is built on theory, but ultimately is based in reality. This framework is called Breakbeat Pedagogy (BBP).

Breakbeat Pedagogy is the art of the Hip Hop event. It involves the process of creating a poetry slam or Hip Hop event, alongside students, to initiate a democratic space for the elements to live and thrive within a school community. Hip Hop has a long tradition of “the event”—from South Bronx block parties to community centers to back-to-school jams at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. (Chang, 2005). “The event” is where the...

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