Afterthought: Cultural Congruity in Art, History, and Music

By Dillard, Benita | Black History Bulletin, Summer-Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Afterthought: Cultural Congruity in Art, History, and Music


Dillard, Benita, Black History Bulletin


Many African American students listen to hip-hop not only because they enjoy the beat of the music, but because they can relate to the issues addressed in the lyrics. If played Common's song "Sixth Sense," whose first line is "The revolution will not be televised," many students would know the song at once. However, if played "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," Gil Scott-Heron's 1970s hit that helped to inspire Common's song of three decades later, few if any of these same students would recognize the older song. Listening to and learning about the piece of music by Scott-Heron, however, not only is rewarding in itself, but invariably gives students new insights on and appreciation for the piece of music by Common. If African American students were exposed in the classroom to the historical content of spirituals, slave songs, work songs, ragtime, blues, jazz, soul, and other traditional genres of African American music, they would be able to get even more out of hip-hop, by recognizing how many hip-hop artists make strong references and connections to historical events, issues, and figures.

The contributors to this edition of Black History Bulletin have designed sample curricula to show students how African American historians, artists, and explorers used their own creative abilities to capture and eternalize significant African American historical and cultural events. The articles pay tribute to significant African American figures whose names are typically overlooked or omitted from textbooks. The lesson plans not only expose students to unsung heroes, but they incorporate activities that work to create identities of achievement in African American students (Perry, Steele, & Hilliard, 2004)--exposing them to curricula that are intellectually challenging. To design intellectually challenging curricula, of course, requires educators to be "culturally responsive."

In this context, culturally responsive means paying attention to how African American students learn. When educators pay attention to students' learning styles, it provides them with "functional directions for modifying instructional techniques that more effectively meet the academic needs of ethnically diverse students" (Gay, 2000, 147). The lesson plans in this Bulletin all provide evidence that the authors carefully considered the learning styles of ethnically diverse students, and more particularly, African American students.

Young, Wright, and Laster (2005) describe two preferential learning styles among African American students. The "analytical learner" is the student who processes information that is written in textbooks or stated in lectures. The "global learner" is the visual, tactile, kinesthetic learner who has to visualize what is about to be learned; this learner has to touch what is about to be learned, and the learner has to move about the learning environment in order to learn (Young, Wright, & Laster, 2005). In most cases, African American students possess the characteristics of a global learner. Therefore, the primary emphasis in this Bulletin is on how educators can reach global learners by devising instructional practices that create cultural congruity in the teaching-learning processes (Gay, 2005).

Exposing global learners to instructional variability is vital to their academic achievement. The authors in this volume provide a repertoire of pedagogical methods to enhance the learning environment for African American students who are global learners. In Regennia Williams's lesson on oral history methodology and African American religion, the author includes tactile and visual activities. More important, Williams includes kinesthetic activities that allow students to move around and work in small groups. This particular small group activity required each group to develop a list of four or five basic questions for each general area of the oral history interview. According to Gay (2000), when marginalized African, Asian, Latino, and Native American students work collaboratively to design their own assignments or work across ethnic, gender, and ability groupings, the students' academic achievement, self confidence, and self-efficacy improve. …

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