Learning to a beat helps the kids on the street
New York — Rap music! Kids -- especially city kids -- love it. But their parents don't usually share their enthusiasm. Often it's not so much the music that bothers them as it is the lyrics, which sometimes involve sex, drugs, hostility, and so on. Well, there's a man in Philadelphia who's doing his best to turn all that around. He's Douglas ``Jocko'' Henderson, a.k.a. ``the father of rap.'' Mr. Henderson has created a supplementary educational program called ``Get Ready,'' that uses rap music on cassette tapes to teach kids about everything from the multiplication tables to the Declaration of Independence to drug abuse. There's even a tape on how to prepare for a job interview.
Henderson's history includes many years as a disc jockey in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York; a stint in television; live shows at the Apollo Theater; magazine publishing; and education. His album ``Rhythm Talk'' was a pioneer in the rap music field. He hit on the idea of using rap as an educational tool in 1980 when he was called to present trophies to some Philadelphia junior high school students during Black History Month:
``When they introduced me as Jocko, the kids all said, `Do your record, do your record! ' -- so I started to go `you got to rock-a-with-a-boat-a-on-the-dock-a,' and the kids joined in and rapped with me. And that's when the electric light hit me and I thought, my goodness, suppose I was rapping something educational? Then I said to myself, guaranteed, there's no way it can miss. Because we all remember `one, two, buckle my shoe' . . . `Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall' -- anything that has a little rhythm to it, you remember it.''
Henderson didn't waste any time. He invested his own money and worked up a series of tapes and a manual for use in public schools. To date, his Get Ready company has sold over 30,000 tapes nationally, and many orders are now being filled for the fall.
Of course, not everyone is enthusiastic about the concept. Bertran Wallace, a former teacher and administrator who distributes the tapes in New York state, recalls:``One parent said, `I'm a black parent and I don't want my kids to be rappin' and standin' on the corner.' They felt it was stereotyping their kids because it was rap.
``If people, teachers particularly, would just remove their hidden prejudices in terms of what they like or what they dislike,'' he adds. ``Too many teachers bring their values into a schoolroom and they forget that those kids come from varied backgrounds. When I was young I was a jitterbug. My mother didn't like it, just as I don't like my daughter with the radio blasting. But if she can learn from it, why not?''
Overall, Get Ready has gotten good response. Harold B. Adams, principal of the Thomas FitzSimons Junior High School in Philadelphia, wrote soon after the program began: ``As we know, there are students in every school who have not obtained their grade levels, due to learning disabilities and many other factors. But through your pilot demonstration . . . it showed just how effectively your program can make all students, whether they are considered slow learners or above average students, look towards learning with renewed interest.''
Henderson never intended the program to replace regular lesson plans. He views Get Ready as a supplementary aid to help reinforce learning, especially for kids who seem to have trouble learning in conventional ways.
Says Principal Herbert Rogers of the Dr. Ethel D. Allen Elementary School in Philadelphia:
``We used the parts of speech program. It's a great little motivational readiness program. We gave the boys and girls a pre-test on the eight parts of speech and then a post-test after they had worked with the tapes at home. There was a dramatic increase in their understanding of the meaning of the parts of speech after the post-test.
``It also gave the parents a refresher course! It had been years since some of them had dealt with the parts of speech.''
Luisa Aponte is Associate Director of Apprecticeship in the Craft, a training program in business and the culinary arts for 15 through 21-year-olds. She has used the rap tapes with great success:
``Before we used the program, the students were sometimes bored, but as soon as we introduced the job skills tape, the kids were bubbling over and asking for more. Now they're adding their own pieces and making up their own words.''
For more information about the rap tape program, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Get Ready, PO Box 18865, Philadelphia, PA 19119. Examples of Get Ready's educational `raps' Parts of Speech The Eight Parts of Speech are what you'll hear Listen very carefully and I'll make it real clear: Three little words, we often see Are Articles, a, an, and the. A Noun is the name of anything As school or garden, house or swing. An Adjective tells the kind of noun As great, small, pretty, white or brown. Verbs tell of something being done As read, count, spell, sing, jump or run How things are done the Adverbs tell As slowly, quickly, ill or well. They also tell us where and when As here and there, and now and then. Conjunction joins the words together As wind or sunshine, rain or weather. An Interjection shows surprise! As, oh! how pretty! Ah! how wise! Finding a Job When you apply for a job walk in tall -- but remember don't be a know it all. Express yourself not too loud but clear -- Let them know you want the job, that's why you're there. Be very neat -- extremely clean -- your chances will improve -- you'll see what I mean. You don't have to be a fashion plate, just look as good as you can -- that's all it takes. Have your shoes shined -- your fingernails clean -- stand up straight don't slouch or lean. Arrive a little early for your interview -- they'll be mighty impressed with you. If there is an emergency and you'll be detained -- call them on the phone so you can explain.