Smith says: Curriculum changes over the years

  • Wednesday, January 23, 2013

So, the University of Arizona now offers a minor in hip-hop.
The news shocked me so much, I knocked a Pat Boone album off my turntable.
According to a university news release, the “Hip-Hop Concentration” in the College of Humanities includes the origin and development of hip-hop culture, dance, rap music, graffiti/tagging, fashion, business, and film. Topics will cover migrations, multilingualism, race, class, gender, religions, sexuality, nationality, politics and the economy.
The curriculum “goes beyond the stereotypical gang and drug cultures to examine the movement's intersection with politics, marketing, fashion and other academic disciplines.”
Arizona students hoping for an easy minor of just listening to Jay-Z probably shouldn't enroll, officials said. WHAT??
Times change, career fields change. Society changes. That's nothing new. I just didn't realize hip-hop was a movement. Like the civil rights movement? Or the back-to-the-land movement?
I have no idea how a minor in hip-hop would translate to a career, but people probably said the same thing about women's studies and medieval art appreciation.
Now, allow me to brag a bit: Most people don't know this—I no longer put it on my resume—but I double-majored in English and navel-gazing. And it's stood me in good stead, too. Nobody can spot navel lint like I can. I can even find incipient lint—those tiny particles of pre-lint fuzz almost invisible to the naked eye.
Yes, navel gazing has been berry, berry good to me. Without exception, all my bosses have been impressed and amazed by my talent. Okay, that part isn't true: Navel gazing hasn't made me any money or helped me find a job, but at least I was on the cutting-edge of higher education. (My brother T-Bob still tells people he minored in underwater basket weaving, and if you knew T-Bob you'd halfway believe it.)
Speaking of T-Bob, I remember when he brought home the “Tommy” album. My dad frowned and said, “What's a rock opera? And why does the singer look like a woman?”
When T-Bob tried to explain that the album spawned a movie about a pinball wizard, and androgynous Roger Daltrey fronted a band called The Who, whose guitarist smashed his instrument after each live performance, well, communication broke down completely. I'm just glad Dad never heard about Ziggy Stardust; he might've had a stroke.
Back to the hip-hop. I'm no contemporary music critic—I don't know the difference between rap and hip-hop, let alone the difference between West and East Coast rap. So yes, one could argue I'm being ignorant and close-minded here.
After all, a century ago there weren't degrees in packaging science or broadcast communications. “Teach somebody how to talk on the television? What in tarnation is a television?”
Confession time: I actually like some hip-hop; according to iTunes, so do a lot of people my age.
I listen to Outkast, Sugar Hill Gang, Arrested Development, LL Cool J, Run-DMC. (Yes, I'm old school.) I don't like songs that glorify misogyny, violence or drugs, so there's a whole lot I don't listen to: Chris Brown, Eminem, NWA. I've tried to like Kanye West but it's just not happening.
If you watch TV, shop in a mall or go to the movies, you've heard hip-hop. When a musical genre is offered as a minor, it's here to stay… and why not? I'll bet UA will have some cool guest lecturers.
If Snoop Dogg drops by, I'm gonna be so jealous.
Julie R. Smith, who also likes Hank Williams Sr. and Judy Collins, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com
 

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