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Monday, July 23, 2007

Concrete vs Virtual,Street vs. SuperHighway, Dirty vs. Nerdy

"They see me rollin';They hatin'.Patrollin'And tryin. to catch me ridin' dirty."

Much has been made of the digital divide. That's because of poverty or lack of education a certain segment of society doesn't have an on-ramp to the information superhighway. For some this is true, but for a vast majority of students that aren't on the digital fastlane it is because they are "ridin' dirty." The "tint" of the windows doesn't allow them to see the access roads. They roll right past more interested in keeping it street, pounding the pavement, and keeping it real.

"They see me strollin', they laughin'And rollin' their eyes cause I'm so white and nerdy"

Weird Al's parody of "Ridin'" has become an anthem for the white and nerdy mainly because most of us recognize ourselves in some portion of the lyrics. Though it does so humurously, it validates aspects of our lives by letting us know that there are others out their with similar nerdy tastes. The same can be said for Chamillionaire's original version. Students listen to the song and are comforted by the fact that their lifestyle is legitimized. I am not about to go out and learn Klingon because the narrator of "White and Nerdy" is fluent, but I can take comfort in the fact that there are others out there that debate the merits of Kirk and Picard. So "Ridin" is not going to inspire anyone to run out and get a revolver for their right hand and a 40 oz. for the left, but it will confirm that there are others that "got warrants in every city except Houston."

As ironic as "White and Nerdy" is it still falls into the trap of assigning skin color to a cetain behaviour. I am not offended by the song. I have no problem making fun of white people or any people for that matter. However, most of the students I have had at the alternative program, the long-term suspension program, and in summer school believe that in order to keep it street then they can't be overly successful in school. Those that are successful are seen as selling out or acting white. By extension Chamillionaire can be seen as providing a schematic for black behaviour.

A vocabulary quiz drawn from the lyrics of these two songs would most likely have results that would break quite nicely along racial lines. Obviously education is also a determining factor, but it is a fact that black students are underserved by our education system. Number one. The word "oak" as in "I'm grippin' oak" most nearly means. A: a deciduous tree B: a popular drug C: a wooden steering wheel D: the city of Oakland. Number two. A keyboard design for the maximum physical benefit of the user can be described as. A: Aesthetic B: Ergonomic C: Economic D: Chronic.

I wouldn't be so concerned if I detected even a tad bit of irony or if I had the feeling that students would grow out of this like any phase of adolescents. Statistics show that most of my students don't have the luxury of growing out because they are going to be gunned down or locked up before they get a chance to.

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