Give Hip-Hop a Chance

In response to the opinion article "For '90s Kids, the Boom Box's Blast Has Drowned Out the Written Word" (Dec. 24): It pains me to see an educator take such a close-minded stance. Prof. Chet Raymo's main gripe is that listening to music has all but replaced reading for pleasure on today's college campuses, and that the music being listened to is meaningless and just plain bad.

Mr. Raymo says, "One of the down sides to being a teacher of young people is that one must actually become aware of the existence of groups such as Wu-Tang." Musical differences aside, my real problem is the approach in the article: Listen to as little as possible, and jump to conclusions as quickly as possible.

The author has forgotten that all good teachers are also students. I have some suggestions and questions I'd like him to consider: Take a walk across campus to the humanities department and ask about the issues of identity and voice in minority and oppressed cultures. Think about these ideas and listen to Wu-Tang again. Are the lyrics violent and obscene? If so, why?

You disdain the Wu's "Cash Rules Everything Around Me" anthem and pine for the good old days of idealism at college. Better you should ask why idealism is tempered with such heavy doses of cynicism these days. You say the music of the ghetto is meaningless to affluent college students. Instead of condemning what seems incongruent, you should ask: Why are middle-class white kids into hip-hop and black inner-city culture?

The statement " nothing matters except what music-industry megamasters decide will matter" is dead wrong if applied to Wu-Tang: they maintain creative control by producing and promoting their own music.

My intent is not to argue what music is good, but to urge you to listen before you judge. Hip-hop is very intelligent music; most people who don't think so have simply not listened well enough. Check out one of my favorite rap artists, KRS-ONE (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone). Dubbing himself "the Teacher," KRS-ONE's lyrics contain poetry, philosophy, and history - all the things you find lacking in the music of today's youth. When divisions between races, generations, and economic classes seem to be growing larger, it's the place of the educator to bridge gaps, not build walls.

Jason Osder

Rollinsville, Colo.

4-H clubs are 'cooperative'

I am a bit mystified by the reference to 4-H clubs possibly being affected by two California Supreme Court cases concerning membership in the Boy Scouts of America in "Who Gets to Be a Boy Scout?" (Dec. 7).

4-H clubs are part of the youth development program of Cooperative Extension, a publicly funded institution. The term "cooperative" refers to the fact that federal, state, and county dollars fund extension programs - including 4-H.

4-H, as a part of Cooperative Extension, already accepts any boy or girl without regard to race, beliefs, sexual orientation or any of the other issues that cause discrimination. In fact, we must document that we have made efforts to reach underrepresented audiences.

Liesel Dreisbach

Allentown, Pa.

Penn State Cooperative Extension

Lehigh Co.

An activity for a couch potato?

Regarding the opinion essay "TV as Solace - or Omnipresent Beast?" (Jan. 8): Here is a quick modification to a television set that will enable the owner to live life to the fullest, enjoy nature, recognize his children, and become healthier. It only requires normal equipment found in a home.

First, unplug the television.

Next, take a normal ruler or tape measure and carefully measure 6 1/2 inches from the electrical plug. Take normal household scissors or sewing scissors and precisely cut the wire at this point.

You will have wire in both hands.

Now, throw either end away.

Laurie Butgereit

Johannesburg, South Africa

Your letters are welcome. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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