When learning that Rutgers University would be offering an entire course centered around Beyonce, more than a few people scoffed or laughed at the thought of a pop icon taking the place usually extended to historical figures. However, James Braxton Peterson, the Director of Africana Studies and associate professor of English at Lehigh University, is backing Kevin Allred's decision to focus on a contemporary figure who not only adds dimensions of diversity in race, gender and sexuality, but in academia as well.
"[Professor] Allred’s course speaks to young people, especially young people of color, women, and the LGBT community, in ways that too many other courses simply will not and some others simply cannot," writes Peterson.
The self-proclaimed "hip hop scholar "has worked with fellow new-school educators who share his belief such as Mark Anthony Neal, who teaches a course on "Soul Sampling" at Duke, and Micheal Eric Dyson, the hip hop advocate who teaches his own controversial course on Jay-Z. Peterson insists that curriculums relevant to young people's experiences uniquely engages and reaches students who are "frustrated with the homogeneity of the educational curriculum, especially students whose lived experiences are not reflected in the curriculum as it is currently constructed."
Do the Carters and other contemporary figures, specifically those in urban culture, have a place in classrooms? Or does pop culture not have enough substance to teach students important lessons?