《C. H. I. K. A. R. A.》Japanese word meaning power, capability, or influence
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I’m no fan of Drake’s music. I think it’s simply watered-down rap music that has almost no substance to it. However, I am a fan of Drake as a person. Based upon the few things I have read, Drake seems like a guy with his head screwed on properly and seems like a cool guy who treats others around him the right way. That said, when I saw a story about him on Philly.com, I’ll admit I was surprised considering that Drake has no ties to the Philadelphia area in regards to family, education, or anything like that.
The story was about how Drake saw Diane Sawyer’s “Hidden America” report about the struggles of North Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion High School, and how the principal and students are working together to try and change the culture of violence, low test-scores, and a high dropout rate. Drake was reportedly captivated by it, and decided he would help Strawberry Mansion High School by pledging to build a recording studio for the kids of that high school.
Now, some people are not happy, stating that if Drake really wanted to help out, he should donate computers or textbooks. Also stating that encouraging kids to pursue a life of music by building a recording studio isn’t going to help them. To those people, I would like to offer you my middle finger, a verbal (although written here) fuck you, and a question: “Did you seriously forget what it was like being in high school?”
High School is a confusing and complex time for kids. Granted our lives get more complex as we get older, but think about what that time was like. There are the social pressures of getting friends, losing friends, getting a boyfriend/girlfriend, keeping your parent/guardian happy, doing well in your classes, and even trying to muster up the motivation to wake up early to do the same thing every day for four straight years with a bunch of equally “lost” people who try to impose their drama on you because they can’t figure it out either.
Then you add in the fact that in many schools in Philadelphia, there are threats of violence to worry about, unruly classrooms, poverty and violence in the neighborhoods, pressures to help out at home and you can see why academics isn’t high on the list of priorities. Life gets in the way. People think that throwing money at the situation is what will fix it. Money is money, and the reason why money is needed is so schools can afford to ATTEMPT to give the kids an education, and so they can pay a staff to provide the adequate supports necessary for a child to obtain an education. That’s the only way money is necessary. Drake is providing a service, which is much more important. I’ll explain why.
When people are young, the biggest obstacle is finding your own way in the world and trying to assert your independence. It’s a struggle that some are never able to figure out. However, I think everyone knows what the way of the world is after high school: find something you’re good at and make money doing it. It’s that simple. The reason why this is awesome of Drake to do is because many kids don’t identify with reading “The Great Gatsby” or using the Pythagorean Theorem, but they do identify with music, particularly music that reflects a situation similar to what they know and experience. Music is an unbelievable world-wide universal language that speaks to all of us in our own unique way, and Drake is trying to tap into the minds and interests of the youth at this school.
We all need something we are good at, which is why school districts offer vo-tech training to kids. Are the people who are pissed off at Drake for doing this mad about the fact that Philadelphia has schools that help kids learn how to fix cars, become chefs, learn how to do hair, or help kids become performance artists? Probably not. Philadelphia’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) bred Questlove (drummer for The Roots) among many others who are now successful musicians. If Questlove can get his support to succeed, so should kids at Strawberry Mansion.
The expectation that we can use a test to determine a child’s success in life, and that they’ll actually use everything taught to them in high school is fraudulent. We as a society aren’t doing kids favors by encouraging them to go college no matter what, and that the main goal of high school is to go to college. High school should exist for the purpose of broadening horizons, finding out interests, and preparing children to gain the skills necessary to receive secondary training in order to get a job that meets those interests, whether it’s college, trade school, or otherwise.
The people who are mad about this have probably never set foot at Strawberry Mansion High School. They have probably never listened to rap music for any long period of time. They also don’t know anything about kids who go to school in the city, or if they do, they choose to forget certain things. Music can be something that keeps a kid from dropping out of school, and if that’s the case, then I am completely in favor of it. We should be praising Drake for taking his time and money to support our children, paying attention to our city’s education crisis, and trying to help our kids be successful in life after high school.
A lot of the kids I see will write raps of their own. Or they’ll rap other people’s words. It’s what they know and connect with. We should still provide our children with the necessary framework of the four major subjects (english, science, math, social studies), but we can’t ignore the fringe subjects which truly speak to the lives, the thoughts, the triumphs, the struggles, and the grind that is every day life. If you got a problem with what Drake did, I challenge you to look in the mirror and think about your own life and the path you chose to lead. How did you get there? What supports were in place to help you get to where you are now? What if things were different?
Philadelphia schools are in a state of crisis. Our children are being left behind in more ways than just the academic. We need to support them in every facet of their lives in order to help them prepare for their own futures as well as to become productive future citizens of our great city. It’s time to stop taking things at face value, stop all the nonsense, and start thinking about what our kids know, what they require, and how we can best provide for their futures. Through this gesture, Drake did that, and I hope others will soon follow suit in their own ways.