Non-Teachers Lil Wayne & Nicki Minaj Named Teachers of the Year Anyhow
|Here's Nicki Minaj giving Lil Wayne a little "extra credit" during their performance at BankAtlantic Center earlier this year.|
According to Melvin El, a former boxer who heads up BEP and goes by MC Ant Tanna in a series of educational videos, teachers were judged in seven areas: maintaining attention, moving an audience, an ability to inspire, use of language, use of memory devices, the ability to transform behavior, and content quality. In an interview with New Times, El admits that he was hesitant to give the honor to two rappers instead of two actual licensed teachers, but says his coworkers won him over.
"Someone joked, 'What about Lil Wayne, why can't we give him Teacher of the Year?' Of course we all laughed at first," he says. "Then we begin looking at the categories which we were going to base the award on. While it sounds funny and it sounds like some kind of gimmick, he came up higher than most of the teachers. When you look at Lil Wayne -- I don't know if you have kids or you've been around a lot of children -- they can sing almost every song on the radio, particularly rap. I've seen them repeat complex lyrics from rap songs that I couldn't even do."
Yes, it does sound distinctly like some kind of a gimmick to choose a pair of rap celebrities instead of professionals who toil away in actual classrooms.
When asked, El was reluctant to give the names of the other teachers in South Florida who were up for consideration, but said that they work in both public and private schools locally. This is the first run of Teachers of the Year for the organization, which sells instructional videos and promotes a stable of artists with songs featuring educational themes -- such as Roc Box's "Learn How to Read." And based upon his work in local schools, documented below, he appears to be undermining his own efforts with this award choice.
"It does make a statement that [Wayne and Minaj] are not teachers," El adds. "Whether we like it or not, they're teaching our children. They're teaching them better -- in many cases -- than teachers in the classrooms. Of course they were waning on the content -- they weren't teaching the things that would make kids successful in life, but again, the point that my team was making is that they're teaching kids in an abundant way."
El went on to point out that Florida scores particularly low in standardized tests, and argues that the local school system needs some radical changes. And this is one section of our conversation that sparks some agreement. Having read Gus Garcia-Roberts' recent story about diploma mills spitting out graduates faster than Weezy drops his bars on "6 Foot 7 Foot," there's plenty of disagreement on what amounts to getting an education around here.
Still, giving the credit to these particular rappers for teaching is like rewarding broccoli for being nutritious. As much as this writer personally enjoys the artistry and wordplay of Nicki Minaj, there is nothing about "Super Bass" that is intended as education -- for grade school kids, anyhow. Lil Wayne picturing himself in a cap and gown on the cover of Tha Carter IV is pleasant enough, but this is obviously an award that neither of them asked for nor deserve.
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