Unethical Quote Of The Week: Deyate Hagood’s Zoom High School Economics Class

“What that nigga want God? Word up, look out for the cops…Word up, two for fives over here baby. Word up, two for fives them niggas got garbage down the way, word up.”

—-Lyrics in “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” performed by Wu-Tang Clan ,in one of two rap videos that formed the basis of an economics class taught by Deyate Hagood, a social studies teacher at A-TECH High School.

For the uneducated, “Two for fives” is a 90s’ term for crack cocaine sales, meaning “two vials for five dollars.”

When a Queens mom working at home heard this and another equally vulgar rap video taking up the bulk of her son’s Zoom economics class on “money, power and respect,” she snapped. The woman, whose name is being withheld because she fears retribution against her or her son, grabbed her son’s laptop and shouted at Deyate Hagood, the social studies teacher at A-TECH High School in Williamsburg, saying…

“You honestly ought to be motherfucking embarrassed. Disgusting! You have rap videos using N-words, talking about whores and bitches and selling drugs. I’m working from home, and this is what I’m hearing my kid in his senior year learning in class?”

Indeed it was. “I’ve had to watch my high-school senior spend an entire year at home in isolation while receiving a very limited education,” said the Queens mother, an executive assistant with a younger son in middle school. She told the New York Post that her 12th-grader did not have a book or syllabus for the economics class. Her son reported that Hagood usually showed videos. In the second rap video played that day in Hagood’s class, a prostitute in black lingerie “sings,”  “First you get the money. Then you get the muthafuckin’, power. After you get the fuckin’ power muthafuckas will respect you.”

Nice!

To be fair, the recorded Zoom session shows Hagood attempting to spark a class discussion out of such relevant literature. “Are they saying money gives you some sort of status? Do you think people who have money have power, too? Is that something we can say?” he asked the class. “Someone? Anyone? You’re supposed to be my smart class…What are they trying to say in the video?’

One  student answered, “I don’t know, you got to be a drug dealer to have money, power and respect.” The teacher responded, “Just that? Is that a beneficial way to live our lives, though?”

The angry mother, who posted a video of the class on Facebook, said,

“I’m really angry and sad for the kids. I hate that I can’t trust what is being shown and taught, and that my kids have lost so much learning….Who is actually accountable for what these children are being taught? Is anyone watching and documenting what lessons are being given and by whom?…I don’t think it matters what color you are. This is a classroom, albeit virtual, and you should be teaching something valuable. These kids are supposed to be preparing for college, and this isn’t helpful to them.”

Other questions:

  • How many parents are watching their children’s Zoom classes?
  • If they did, how many would see equally infuriating presentations?
  • How similar is this class to what the in-person classes were like?
  • If professors and journalists are fired for speaking the work “nigger” or its variants in discussions of the word, how is it that a high school teacher can play a video using the same word multiple times as a racial epithet without sanctions? That question wasn’t even raised in the Post story. Is it because the teacher is black? Or is their a rule that as long as someone doesn’t actually speak the taboo word, but just uses a recording of someone else saying it, that’s acceptable?
  • Speaking of acceptable, is this an acceptable defense of the class by New York Department of Education spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon: “Two iconic songs were used as part of a 12th-grade lesson about economics, and the teacher provided appropriate context prior to streaming them”?

Oh! The songs are iconic! That changes everything! Actually, it raises more questions, like whether New York educators know what “iconic” means. What would be “appropriate context” for using those songs in an “economics” class?

 

18 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Deyate Hagood’s Zoom High School Economics Class

  1. It’s the same societal mentality that applauds Cardi B’s “Wet-Ass Pussy” (announced as best song of 2020 on NPR) while being offended by Dr. Seuss, Aunt Jemima, The Muppets, Mr. Potato Head, Peter Pan, etc. etc.

    NPR’s description of WAP is “To no one’s surprise, a pair of women honoring their own ladyparts and the pleasures they dish out and expect returned in spades drew the ire of the insecure, of zealots and moral grandstanders. The backlash, however inseparable from the song’s cultural narrative, only bolsters the argument for its politics of pleasure. At its core, “WAP” is Cardi and Meg’s assertion that their expression, both artistic and sexual, belongs to them and them alone. Such a filthy bit of joy may be born of entertainment, but it persists as necessity — fake prudishness be damned. —Briana Younger”

    My mom was a psychiatric nurse for 40 years. I wish she was still around to help me understand the logic of such cultural hogwash.

    • Thank you for using the term “cultural hogwash.” I am going to use that, instead of Jack’s equally appropriate, but increasingly obscure, “Authentic Frontier Gibberish” (from a line spoken in the “increasingly racist” movie, “Blazing Saddles”).

      But then, of course, “hogwash” is already obscure enough, and with governments increasingly anti-livestock farming, the word might become a future society’s Ungoodspeak.

      But we can count on future generations to know the racism inherent in The Insulting Slang Word Formerly Applied to American Slaves From Africa and Their Descendants – The Word, Which Everyone Knows but Never Speaks or Writes – Unless Spoken in a Rap Lyric by a Person With Melanin and Skin Color Sufficiently Similar to That of the Aforementioned Historical Victims Who Are of African Ancestry.

      So, perhaps “cultural sewage” is the term I ought to use – until governments ban sewers…

  2. For those who missed it…here’s the list from NPR…your tax dollars at work.

    The justification for such is described as “When the news cycle had us at a loss for words, we found quiet songs to speak for us. When we wanted to smile without looking at our phones, buoyant distractions abounded. If racism, xenophobia and sociopathic behavior made us want to scream, Black musicians found astonishingly inventive ways of saying “um, did you just start paying attention?” And since we’re still stuck in this storm for the foreseeable future, we present to you a silver linings playlist: 100 songs that gave us life when we needed it most.”

    https://www.npr.org/2020/12/03/931771524/the-100-best-songs-of-2020-page-1utm_source=page2&utm_campaign=toc&utm_term=bottom&utm_medium=internal

  3. 1. “Iconic” is so overused now, it’s almost become a cliche.
    2. Is it really his job to get students to think about how they want to live their lives? Isn’t he supposed to be teaching about economics? What lessons did this mother’s son learn about economic theory? It sounds a whole lot like this particular economics lesson was about a particular philosophy about money the teacher wanted to impart to the students. It would be interesting to find out how many lessons were like this.

    • I taught Economics 201 and 202 for years at a community college. Many falsely believe it is only about money; it is a decision science. Trying to get people to understand that Economics focuses on maximizing value while minimizing costs is difficult when it seems we measure everything in dollars and cents.

      When I taught the subject at a correctional institution to mostly black men incarcerated for drug crimes I never resorted to using the type of examples this high school teacher used. For them, they were experiencing the hidden costs of the decisions they made. What is the value of being able to move about freely without someone telling you where you can go? What is the value of being able to eat what you want or drink what you want? What is the value of being able to communicate without someone listening to everything you say? These are but some of the tradeoffs or costs when you choose to engage in illegal activity and go to jail.

      The problem with videos glorifying money in the hood is that they rarely show the costs of of making such choices. They never seem to factor in the costs of going to jail or seeing your bro bleeding out in the gutter because he got in the way in your gun battle with a rival dealer.

      The interesting thing about this story is that the teacher did not respect his student’s ability to grasp the subject matter without using such videos. It is one thing to use culturally relevant examples to aid in understanding but it is another matter to pretend that vulgar specifics are needed to make the case.

  4. I tried to find out how we are planning on paying for the $1.9 trillion stimulus package just passed. Are we going to sell Treasury Bonds (borrow and have to pay it back) or print more money (dilute the currency). It was not easy to find out that we are going to do both. I had to wade through 30 articles telling me the package will fund $50 million worth of abortions (I wasn’t aware COVID made you pregnant) to find that we are going to dump $1.9 trillion in bonds on the market. However, there seems to be little interest in the world for buying our bonds, so the FED is likely to print new money, buy the bonds, and then expect us to pay them back for it. That might be something topical for an economics class right now.

    We are spending like we don’t intend to pay back the loans anymore, like someone who knows they are going to declare bankruptcy soon. Buy the best car you can, give gifts to relatives and friends, etc.

    • “We are spending like we don’t intend to pay back the loans anymore, like someone who knows they are going to declare bankruptcy soon. Buy the best car you can, give gifts to relatives and friends, etc.”

      They don’t intend to pay it back. When the system eventually crashes and we are beholden to Communist China, they will tell us how this is proof that capitalism doesn’t work.

    • It does feel like something has fundamentally changed here–like we’re no longer even saying that the Emperor’s clothes look nice.

      What happens when our bond rating gets downgraded?

  5. If they wanted to use a rap song to illustrate their point, they could have used Gansta’s Paradise by Coolio. It makes the same points about money and power, while also discussing the consequences of drug dealing, and has none of the bad words. It is a song that is actually iconic, as well.

      • I’m at a computer now so I’ll add more. C.R.E.A.M. is an iconic song, and I’m not against using pop culture to start a discussion; but this is a lazy choice for an economics lesson. There is nothing clever or thought-provoking in the song apart from its style, and it’s just a well-executed (but typical) “money is important in the streets” anthem. Same for “Money, Power, Respect.” That is why the teacher had to drag answers out of his students. What were they supposed to say? Yes, the rapper likes money. Yes, people in the hood respect you more when you have lots of money. I’d feel like an idiot giving this “interpretation” to my teacher. It’s just repeating what the song says, and there are no further depths to explore.

        This is like playing W.A.P. to kick off a discussion about the reproductive system in an anatomy class. This educator is probably trying to be the cool “get through to these kids” teacher from 1990s movies, and lazily picked a song that has “cash” in the title.

        (Another thing: these are 1990s songs that these students very likely had never even heard before. So this isn’t even “using things everyone is talking about to teach kids.” He’s just sharing his favorite old songs with his captive audience, as teachers often do, to the benefit of no one.)

        I just see things like this and think, “All I have to do is give my son the simplest kind of classical education and he’s going to seem superhuman to kids taught in these schools. They’re going to think he’s some sort of sorcerer.” It’s sad really.

      • “Another thing: these are 1990s songs that these students very likely had never even heard before.” That contradicts your contention that CREAM is an iconic song. Iconic songs don’t become obscure in just 30 years, or just have a niche in a narrow segment of the culture. I bet those kids know “We Shall Overcome.” “Respect,” “Thriller” and “Old Man River” because those are iconic songs.

  6. For a high school class to be able take something like that and use critical thinking, strip it down to concepts is useful and could interesting. But you can’t risk blowing it, without a rule book of what is acceptable it is too dangerous to be creative. No endorsement of his course just pointing out that by taking all the imaginination, tailorization and emotion out of the classroom to eliminate offence will lead to stagnation and destroy our society.

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