By Sia Papadopoulos
Youth organizations are finding ways to empower youth of colour by incorporating the use of technology in science and hip-hop for educational purposes. They see the importance of providing quality education to encourage marginalized communities, specifically black communities, to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, or math.
The Racial Gap in STEM
The white, middle-class man has been the face of STEM for decades. The underrepresentation of marginalized communities in science and technology have caused the field to lack racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace. Although discrimination in recruitment is acknowledged, according to a study conducted in January 2018 by the Pew Research Centre, many people within the STEM field feel that a major lack is due to the unequal access to quality education.
“Some 52% of those with a STEM job say a major reason for this underrepresentation is because blacks and Hispanics are less likely to have access to quality education that prepares them for these fields, while 45% attribute these disparities to these groups not being encouraged at an early age to pursue STEM-related subjects” - Funk and Park, Pew Research Centre
The Hip-hop Subculture
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Dr. Christopher Emdin, founder of Science Genius is a professor and author who holds a Ph.D. in Urban Education focused in Mathematics, Science, and Technology. Dr. Emdin stresses the importance of giving back youth of colour a piece of themselves (hip-hop culture), while teaching them something new. He argues that the negative connotations attached to hip-hop culture “are often misperceptions of the culture guided by corporate media-driven narratives, that highlight a thin slice of a robust culture, that makes the most problematic aspects of the culture hyper-visible.” (Emdin 319)
“Hip-hop is a culture.” – Christopher Emdin
Dr. Edmin discusses how incorporating all the elements of hip-hop is important in providing a full range of hip-hop education. This includes allowing students to create raps, providing a graffiti wall for students to share and discuss their thoughts and ideas, and celebrating a correct answer by break-dancing. The final important element is the manipulation of technology through DJ’ing. Instead of telling students how to use technology, you provide the technology for students to explore and recreate it for themselves.
“A hip-hop-themed science program served as an intervention for disengaged youth in science classes through rap.” - Emdin
Hip-hop Education and STEM in Toronto
1. Hip Hop STEMposium
Inspired by Dr. Christopher Edmin’s work, the organization uses their slogan “free your mind” to bring hip-hop and STEM together, in order to engage all students in science education. From elementary and high school student and educator workshops, to an annual STEMposium event, this organization incorporates all the core elements of hip-hop while giving the students the technology needed to learn STEM to the full extent.
2. The Beat Academy
The Beat Academy, headquartered in Toronto, takes a different approach to the blending of hip-hop and science. By using a STEM-inspired approach to the arts, The Beat Academy is able to give young creators an opportunity for growth. Instead of using hip-hop as a teaching tool, the organizations objective is to look at music production as a STEM career. The Beat Academy provides immersive music technology programs that prepare aspiring producers to compete in battles across Canada and the U.S.
It is time to change the colour of STEM, by providing quality education to marginalized communities and encouraging youth of colour to purse STEM-related careers. It is also important to question what careers fit into the realm of STEM, and if there are careers, like music production, they should be added to the category.