Hip Hop & Higher Education: Charter & Magnet Schools

If you haven’t heard by now Sean “Diddy” Combs is in the process of opening up a charter school in his hometown of Harlem, NY. This effort is very admirable and is something that longtime Hip Hop artists should do as a way to give back to their communities. Capital Preparatory Harlem School will open this coming school year to grades six and seven and expanding into other grade levels as they progress. Diddy is not the first to go the charter school route as Swizz Beatz is very involved with the Bronx Charter School for the Arts and Pitbull opened up the Sports Leadership and Management Charter Middle/High School in Miami. Before we get into it let’s break down the difference between a public school, a magnet school, and a charter school. Public schools get their financing from local, state, and federal government funds. In most cases, they must admit all students who live within the borders of their district. Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children. They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools. Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters. Magnet schools are free public schools that can be highly competitive and highly selective. They’re renowned for their special programs and high academic standards. They may specialize in a particular area, such as science or the arts.

For those that don’t know I attended a magnet school for the arts in high school where I “specialized” or majored in Creative Writing. I had to apply and interview then awaited a decision for admittance. The number one benefit that these schools have over public schools is that they don’t have to follow all of the same state and/or federal guidelines that public schools do. This allows the curriculum to be taught creatively and encourages student/teacher engagement resulting in both the student and the teacher being enthusiastic about education in general. With the rise of “whitewashed” textbooks it’s no wonder that Black and families of other cultural backgrounds are looking at alternative ways to educate their offspring. Home schooling is also on the rise, increasing the critical thinking potential in young people. Don’t look for Michael Jordan or Oprah to support our community because two people can only do so much and we all know how Mike really feels about the Hip Hop community, whereas Oprah was just uneducated and misinformed about the culture.

If we are waiting on one person to improve our circumstance we’ll be waiting forever but if we all pool our resources together we could fully fund a college or a university and employ all Black and Brown teachers, instructors, advisors, professors, and such. In order to do that we all have to be on one accord and there is no one to spearhead such an endeavor. The best way to improve our community is through education. Better education leads to better jobs which improves the economy in that community. This results in an increase of political presence and action in those communities in order to resolve social ills. Our Four Initiatives weren’t created on a whim; but were created with the idea to have our community understand that these things are connected creating a system and if the system is failing we need creative and alternative ways to keep our children on a path to success.