We need to stop graduating 8th Graders

I’m finishing up my fifth year of teaching in Detroit. Haven’t posted in a while. I’ve learned tons in the last few years that I’m excited to write about and get out of my head through the keyboard. Right now, I want to write about something that bothers me every single year in Detroit at this time during the spring – 8th Grade Graduation.

Why should 8th grade graduation bother you, Joe? This is a time to celebrate, moving on to high school, finish up a phase of life and jumping into another at the same time. 

I do celebrate this and every year I am proud to say that ‘I’ve invested in that 8th grade class.’ I hope to see them bloom into amazing people, citizens, fathers, mothers, workers. Actually, the very first 8th grade class I taught 5 years ago will be graduating high school this year. I wrote them all a personal letter before they left. I am always happy to see 8th graders move to the next level and the next challenge in life.

But the words “8th grade graduation,” the graduation tickets? Caps and gowns given to 8th graders? I have seen 8th grade promotion ceremonies, 8th grade moving along ceremonies, but graduation? Cap and gowns? 8th grade graduation parties? 8th Grade Junior-Prom? Going from middle school to high school is not graduating, you do not put ‘middle school graduate’ on your resume when you apply for a job.

The danger in this is instilling a very shallow sense of accomplishment in our kids. I will clap and cheer and, heck, I may even pay for your cap and gown when you graduate high school but making kids feel like they have reached a mountain top at the end of 8th grade does not send them soaring into the next phase of life, it sets them up to expect to be celebrated and rewarded for even the smallest of transitions and accomplishments.

Send your 8th graders on a trip, have them dress up for whatever ceremony you do to promote them on to the next level, make it excellent and inspirational. Give a speech and a certificate… but celebrate them at the level of a high school or college graduate, in the same dress and in the same atmosphere and you are only misleading your kids.

How Busta Rhymes keeps poverty alive and well.

Who’s fault is poverty.

Can it be a personal decision? sometimes.

Generational poverty? sure.

I’m not super interested in who’s fault it is, but I do like to help people out of it.

There are TONS of reasons that people are impoverished and plenty of people to blame but I haven’t heard anyone talking about how our cultures rap-stars help keep people in poverty.

I believe people should stop pointing the finger at policy, politicians, legislation, and lack of funds for the overwhelmingly impoverished communities in our nation.  Start knocking on Busta Rhymes door. and Kanye’s door. And Lil Waynes door. and 2 chaniz door. and Jay-Z’s door, Why?

Because they are, what I would personally consider, the “Tru” enablers of poverty. These celebrities show my kids what’s valuable, what makes a person, how to interact with each other, with girls, what makes someone a man… And it is crap. 

Watch this video and come back..

http://www.kevinnottingham.com/2013/11/26/busta-rhymes-thank-you-feat-q-tip-lil-wayne-and-kanye-west-music-video/

Here is my theory: With a consistent output of music like “Thank you,” “I Luv Dem Strippers,” and “I am a God“. These rappers will successfully keep a large majority of my students disillusioned with rolex watches, Hennessy bottles, polo logos, Louis Vuitton belt buckles, True Religion jeans and Cartiers with the dark tint.

I wrote this poem about why I do what I do that you can purchase off of iTunes if you enjoy it.

I’m picking up the mess

Hip-Hop culture

Two Chainz, see you’re the best

Not many people can talk about strippers

and claim to be “different” at the same time

I got my own struggles with purity

But, I also know I got 300 kids looking at me

Brace for impact

it’s a weight on my shoulders

But I can handle it

I’ll own that

They’re gonna imitate

But I’ll initiate

I’m not a rap-star but I can show my kids honor

I tour 10 months a year with teachers

and that’s just for starters

I can show my dedication

Model being a father

I don’t need a mic or stage lights

They burn up

They blow out

My whole crowd…It’s sold out.

I aint’ fueled by the fame

I aint’ fooled by the money

Every word is love and that’s why the can’t stop me

You got my whole school rocking your songs Two Chainz

But no more of them are going to college

In fact

More of them are facing struggles

Cause they want sex and entertainment

Instead of being men hard workers and fathers

See cause you’re so dope

It’s common knowledge

So busy helping with nothing

Wasting verse after verse

with billions watching

And all you can muster up is noticing your ceiling’s missing

International exposure, middle finger up.

It’s garbage, join your competition

Kanye, the world doesn’t need any more Gods.

At least he doesn’t claim to be different

Cause he’s not

Got whole songs dedicated to bringing down women

Saying the types of things that would put a normal guy in prison

It’s a messed up story but I’ma Help clean it up

Call it like Wiz Khalifa, cause I’ma work hard

But I’ll play harder to unscrew what y’all screwed up

My kids deserve better than you

My kids deserve better than this

I’m bringing some thing new to this generation of Kids