The Influence of Hip-Hop Culture on the Classroom Behavior of Urban Middle School Students
The problem of this study was to determine the influence of hip-hop culture on the classroom behavior of urban middle school students. The elements of hip-hop culture were considered, resulting in the first four sub-problems of this study: (1) How does the lyrical content in hip-hop music influence the classroom behavior of urban middle school students; (2) How does the verbal language present in hip-hop lyrics and used publicly by celebrities in hip-hop culture influence the classroom behavior of urban middle school students; (3) How do the attitudes exhibited by celebrities in hip-hop culture influence the classroom behavior of urban middle school students; and (4) How does the public image presented by hip-hop celebrities influence the classroom behavior of urban middle school students? The second area of study was classroom behavior, and student perceptions were gathered regarding the influence of hip-hop culture on: (5a) The work ethic of urban middle school students; (5b) The attitudes of urban middle school students; (5c) The ability of urban middle school students to be compliant in school; (5d) The ability of urban middle school students to be verbally and physically respectful of others; and (5e) The ability of urban middle school students to be respectful of property.
Of the one hundred and fifty middle school students invited to participate in the survey, thirty –four students returned the consent forms to the researcher. The researcher administered the survey to the student sample in May and June 2008 to avoid high-stakes testing, during specialist time to avoid core instructions courses. The survey began with several dichotomous-choice questions aimed at collecting demographical information. Then, students were asked about their music listening habits to determine whether and how often they were exposed to hip-hop music. Fifteen Likert-type items followed, questioning the students about hip-hop culture following the format of the corresponding sub-problems: lyrics, verbal language, attitude, and image. The twenty-three classroom behavior statements were also Likert-type statements and followed the classroom behavior sub-problems regarding work ethic, attitude, compliance, verbal and physical respect of others, and respect of property.
Results showed that the student’s sampled were avid consumers of hip-hop music and culture, and preferred it as a genre. The majority of the participants agreed that hip-hop artists should be granted freedom of speech, liked lyrics, and stated that controversial content or verbal language would not keep them from listening to the genre. The sample took a stand against verbal abuse in hip-hop lyrics, however, and some questioned hip-hop artists as role models for their peers. Students clearly defined themselves as respectful, good role models for their peers, followers of school rules, and caretakers of school property. When the survey questions increased in specificity, a portion of the sample admitted to teasing, bullying, physical fighting, defiance toward teachers, and disruptive behavior in class. The variations in responses may be due to the students exaggerating their attitudes and behaviors, the students not taking responsibility for their actions, confusion about the survey items, or varying definitions of the behavioral terminology. Overall, in this study the participants did not view themselves as negatively influenced by the controversial content in hip-hop culture. In general, the attitudes the students proclaimed, in relationship to their classroom behavior, were positive and clearly counter to the negative trends found in many urban educational studies of this nature.