In a story that continues to have legs, here is the summary of some arguments against the sociology class about Jay-Z at Georgetown:
While the chairman of Georgetown’s sociology department defends the class, outraged students like junior Stephen Wu have called it “poppycock” and said serious scholars should be delving into Homer not Shawn Carter (Jay-Z’s real name).
“The great bard inclines toward the divine; he brings to light much of the character of human nature and puts man in communion with higher things,” Wu sniffed in the Georgetown campus newspaper, The Hoya. “Rap music frolics in the gutter, resplendent in vulgarity and the most crass of man’s wants.”
Other critics contend Dyson is giving a pass to a rapper who made his bones with raunchy lyrics that ripped women as greedy gold diggers in songs like “Big Pimpin’.”
The two arguments are these:
1. Whether colleges should be teaching about the best of Western Civilization, a constant argument on college campuses. Can any “popular” topics be taught about on campus? Can there be room in a curriculum for both the “great books” and modern topics? This is a broader issue about what belongs in a college curriculum.
2. The content of Jay-Z’s lyrics which can be crude. Should these lyrics simply be condemned and never discussed or could classes like these try to provide some context and explanation?
Another matter in this article: the professor of the class, Michael Eric Dyson, is described first as a “TV pundit.” It does appear Dyson is often in the media but he also has a doctorate so he is not simply another commentator. I don’t know Dyson’s work at all but does calling him a “TV pundit” also denigrate the subject of the class?
I wonder if underlying these arguments is also the idea that this class sounds preposterous compared to a perceived need for American students to pursue STEM degrees.