University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Arts, Culture and Education > DJs and MCs in the classroom: perhaps a glimpse of justice for disaffected inner-city youth?

DJs and MCs in the classroom: perhaps a glimpse of justice for disaffected inner-city youth?

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Abstract: In deprived inner-city localities, where disaffection from the school learning environment can be epidemic, encouraging children to use DJ decks and to MC over the ‘tunes’ can allow the most extremely low-achieving boys to re-engage with the classroom situation in an extremely positive way. Dr. Pete Dale has been facilitating such affirmative moments for close to ten years as Head of Music at a North East secondary school in a locality facing the most serious socio-economic deprivation. In this presentation, he will show film footage of mid-teenage, educationally-‘unsuccessful’ boys MCing and DJing with a remarkable degree of skill. This skill is notable in their linguistic contortions, despite immense and chronic ‘delays’ in their literacy, but also in their significant musical abilities on the DJ decks and within the rhythms of their rapping. Dr. Dale’s theoretical interest, as both a musicologist and an educationalist, is in the ethico-political moment in which a group of ‘failing’ learners suddenly become a success as collaborators in music. Could this perhaps offer a glimpse of justice for a group of young people who are educationally and socially disadvantaged? Employing the philosophy of Derrida and his work on justice, aporia and the ‘Spectres of Marx’, Dr. Dale suggests that we can not quite affirm that justice is ‘present’ within the classroom moment under discussion. Nevertheless, schools concerned with ‘closing the gap’ might do well to consider the possibility that boys disempowered by the school environment would appear to be able to empower themselves in ways which are clearly significant for learning. Perhaps such a moment of empowerment within the classroom environment could offer a glimpse of a justice ‘to come’ or, as Derrida would say, ‘à venir’.

Bionote para: Pete Dale has been Head of Music for many years at a highly challenging inner-city school in the North East of England. During this time, he has used DJing equipment to very successfully engage low-achieving and disaffected boys, in addition to providing the more traditional elements of the school music curriculum. Before taking up teaching, during the 1990s Dale performed in numerous punk underground bands and ran the influential DIY record label Slampt. His more recent PhD study, undertaken at Newcastle University’s International Centre for Music Studies (ICMuS), has been adapted for a monograph entitled Anyone Can Do It: Empowerment, Tradition and the Punk Underground and is due for publication by Ashgate in July 2012. He is also developing several education-orientated journal articles at present.

This talk is part of the Arts, Culture and Education series.

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