Hip hop better than homework

Today, Asian Journal’s Dennis Clemente wrote a bit about why Fil-Ams aren’t doing well in school. And, it really, really sucks.

I know my last post is about the study of culture in sociology,  the dangers of its circulation and, its internalization. And voila. Here it is, operationalized to talk about me, my fam, my community, my people. Big woop.

There are a number of things wrong with Clemente’s take and the NAFFAA study, he so relies on:

1. Filipinos and the collective black

Eduardo Bonilla-Silve wrote a book called Racism Without Racists where he effectively argues that Filipinos belong to the “collective black” in the US racial order and, I would argue, the US social imagination. He goes to argue (and back up with real data, unlike the vague, unknown source of data in Clemente’s article) that racial inequality in the US persists because the liberal project of colorblindness and thinking that we’re all equal in the land of the brave, actually works off of the very racial stratification institutions choose to ignore.

We can’t ignore that Filipinos as well as other Asian Americans who are, in a sense, “blackened” (either by US foreign intervention in their countries–Vietnam, Burma, Laos, hella other Southeast Asian countries) aren’t also doing as well as the poster-child (East) Asian groups. It’s not just us. It’s a problem with race in America. It’s a problem with a global racial ideology that first migrated to the Philippines by way of US benevolent assimilation.

2. Tests don’t always measure “smart” or “doing well”

Just because young folks aren’t doing well on science and math tests doesn’t mean they aren’t good at it. Or that they don’t enjoy it. Or that they won’t learn to love it in the future and become fruitful contributors to math and science fields.

Students doing bad at tests also means tests suck. And that teaching to a test sucks even more. And that the standardization of math and science knowledge doesn’t incorporate the actually rich creativity one needs to be a fantastic mathematician or scientist.

3. Underfunded means underfunded

Hello. See the broken California school system. Goodbye.

Sunny Vergara says it better on Facebook, “Wow, this is a pretty shoddily written article because it totally asks the wrong questions. Its only attempt at institutional critique is citing statistics about retention and the declining quality of American education in general (surprise!) — nothing really about race, or class, or the reasons why U.S. public education is so pathetically underfunded in the first place.”

4. Fil-Am culture can’t be the culprit, neither can Hispanic or Black culture

I really strongly dislike the idea that being “lumped as hispanic” can be a reason why Filipinos aren’t doing well in school. I think if we are going to rely on “culture” as the answer to a problem, it is condemning different cultures to false binaries. Brown = bad. Not brown = good. And this is just not a smart argument.

Looking at culture alone removes institutional racism and structural inequality from the formulation of why youth are disenfranchised from their own education. Blaming culture lays the blame on the bodies of brown youth who are destabilized under the conditions of institutions under them that keep shifting its plates, often for more profit and less care for student welfare.

5. Hip hop IS  better than homework

The arts have been over and again proved to be essential to learning. Outside of the arts, as an educator, in and out of traditional classrooms, I’ve seen hip hop work better than homework. So if were to pick, I’d pick hip hop any day.

xveganjoshx, my fave vegan thinker said it the best, “…there needs to be a Filipino dance/MC/karaoke/graff/avant garde performance group named ‘Hiphop over Homework.’” I’d like to be a part of that, thank you.

7 responses to “Hip hop better than homework”

  1. YAY! this is WONDERFUL. Thanks for taking time to write about this.

  2. “And as the autumn wind transformed the warm kiss of the summer air into a cruel chill… thus Hiphop Over Homework was born” […and BOOM goes the dynamite!]
    Great post as always, Val.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Val! And thanks for this awesome breakdown… I’m a materialist (not materialistic) at heart, so it’s aggravating to see how writers rely on tired cultural concepts to explain messed-up phenomena that are so obviously structural and institutional in the nature of their messed-upness. (I’m interested, though, in how people in general rely on cultural explanations, but not when it’s regurgitated by a newspaper reporter like this.)

    1. You’re a materialist, I’m a materialist. That’s why we we’re friends!

      Its too funny and depressing that newspaper reporters aren’t the only perpetrators of this mess, in my own discipline, no less. Bless their bleeding, cultural hearts.

    2. Also, what’s your blog address? I’d like to link our digital faces!

  4. Your work is splendid! I think we have a lot in common in terms of our critiques of white supremacy and anti-blackness. I am glad to have found your page! =D

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