“When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong”: Enacting Critical Pedagogies of Hip-hop in Mainstream Schools


  • Lauren Leigh Kelly Rutgers University Graduate School of Education
  • Donald C. Sawyer Quinnipiac University


hip-hop education, critical pedagogy, culturally sustaining pedagogy, liberatory education, critical reflexivity, hip-hop pedagogy


In the context of transformative practices in public education, hip-hop is often presented as a culturally relevant solution to the disempowering curriculum and structures that have consistently ignored the needs of minoritized youth. The stories we tell of hip-hop in schools typically highlight the successes of these programs, cultivating the illusion that hip-hop pedagogy is a straightforward approach to youth-centered, culturally-relevant education. However, as is the case with critical pedagogies in practice, many of the lessons to be learned rise out of the difficulties of enacting these pedagogies in real classrooms. As reflexive scholars, it is important to not only focus on our successes, but also to highlight our challenges for the purpose of improvement. Based on their individual experiences as teachers in classrooms engaged in hip-hop based education, the authors explore the challenges that exist within the practice of critical pedagogy and raise important questions about the efficacy of hip-hop pedagogy and liberatory education in traditional school settings.



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