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Why Educators Should Listen to Pharrell


Recently I heard Pharell summarize my entire educational philosophy in one profound statement. When asked where he went to school, Pharrell replied:

The universe is my university.

I believe we are just entering into a new universe of education that will be so drastically different from its predecessors that we won't even have words to define it. And just as with any group entering into a new world, there will be great triumphs, but there will also be unknowns, challenges, pain, and failure.

In education we talk about foundations and building blocks, pathways, and transitions. Education as we know it is linear, and at its core are a select group of truth holders. Those who possess the knowledge, those who confirm degrees, those who decide which knowledge is relevant. But did you know that the universe has no core? There are an estimated 500 billion galaxies each with their own core, their own center. Educators who cannot accept that they are no longer the center will be pushed to the outer realms, irrelevant and unimportant.


Listen to this message from Pharrell to a boy battling cancer.

The past you can't change, the future you can only contemplate, the present is malleable. That's why it's a gift because you can do whatever you want with it. So my suggestion to you is to take this moment right now and recognize this is the new you. 

We don't know what education will look like 20 years from now and we can't go back, but we can change today. We need to embrace the present, with all its strengths and challenges. We need to find and redefine the new "us."


Pharrell defies stereotypes. Black men have three profiles in our country: the hardened thug, the athlete, and the well-educated hero who defied all odds. This leaves only three options for our young Black males. They can live in their world as a criminal or, with tremendous talent and luck, as an athlete. Or they can go to college and live in the White world, but they can't do both. Pharrell is wildly successful as a rapper, producer, and entrepreneur, but what makes him a phenomenon is that his accomplishments cross racial barriers. He does not embody Black success, or White success. He is just success.


Young Black males need White advocates. Whether we like it or not, White people have privilege, and our voice carries far. White support for Blacks, their families, their culture, and their identity is critical to instituting change and lifting their community out of poverty. Embracing only the Black people who have assimilated into the White world is not accepting diversity.

Who else do you know that is redefining stereotypes?


Education's Unicorn: Parents Who Don't Care Students, did you know that if you are Hispanic, you are more likely to be in basic remedial classes? Fewer of you will be in AP and advanced classes. More of you will drop out of school. Many of you will not go to four-year colleges.

Breaking the Child Teachers and parents constantly lament over some child's willfulness. Certainly teachers need to be in charge of the classroom, but I wonder: How far would you go to gain control of a child?

Digitally Illiterate Parents I realized that many of our parents do not have the technology literacy for this type of communication. This made me wonder: What responsibility do we have in educating our families about technology?

From Fractions to Felonies (Part 1) Juvenile detention may seem like an odd topic for a math blog, but from my perspective, there is a direct correlation. To illustrate this, let's trace the path for a typical juvenile offender backwards.


  1. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Appreciate the support.

  2. I love it! Great job, again!!

  3. Thank you! I appreciate the support!

  4. Elizabeth:

    You are obviously a bleeding heart liberal. I can respect your effort to improve the black community. .but what I cant respect is your obvious self hatred toward the color of your own skin.

    The whole "white privilege" thing is just a slap in the face to folks who werent born into wealthy families and have to work thier butts off to survive and get by.

    Regarding inner city schools:

    It doesnt take "resources" for kids to show up to school and behave. Its the PARENTS job to teach their children right and wrong. You dont need high tech computers, fancy buildings etc. to respect and listen to your teacher..respect authority. You could be the poorest person on earth..NO EXCUSE!

    Stop trying to make excuses and put blame towards anything other than the students amd their parents. Its that simple.

  5. Elizabeth,

    Instead of pointing out a mature, Educated, successful Black American like Ben Carson or Bill Cosby you choose a rapper? A rapper, really?

    As if young kids need another rapper to "look up to". Have you ever listed to Pharrells earlier songs when he first know the ones that talked about degrading women, robbing, stealing and killing? Probably not.

    1. I get what you are saying in your comment. The kids do not connect with these two though. It is part of a symptom of the culture. I have all of pharrell' s early stuff...He is not a rapper really in anyway. He does far more pop and rock music as a singer than he ever has done as a rapper. It is early stuff too. Bill Cosby said early on we should view our children as if they are retarded. I am sure he is not proud of that now and should be judge by his more recent merits. He has done too much attacking as far as the black community goes. It is unfortunate because because much like the previous calling followed by blame assigning nullifies anything you have to say to an audience because they shut down.

    2. I think your point has great validity. I just questions. Whether or not they are viable options

    3. Sorry for any typos...trying to do this from my phone without my glasses. Haha

  6. Starting off an argument using derogatory and condescending terms is not preferable tactic to legitimize what you follow the name calling up with. Especially if the goal is to garner validation for your point. See how that works? I made a point without resorting to name calling as a means to to try to discredit someone before I try to make a point without validity. That is how you make a point that deserves respect rather than someone shaking their head on disgust.

  7. It should be discussing...not disgusting.

  8. Thanks to all of you above who have read and responded to this post. I sincerely appreciate the discussions, even if we don't necessarily agree with all of each other's points. It's important to me to hear other points of view, so thank you for that.

  9. To the person asking why I chose a rapper....I know there are many well-educated Black male role models, but I also think that they are represented in schools as the "token Black male." We need more (and varied) examples. Educators should not lead people to believe that the only Black males we respect are those that went to college. For me, the best way to educate a student is to connect with them and build a relationship with them. Showing them that I respect something important to them is a great way to do this. Because Pharrell is widely accepted in the Black, White, and Hispanic communities, he is a great choice. When connecting with students, we have to be careful not to "fake it," and we certainly don't want a bunch of White, middle-aged women pretending to listen to TuPac. Again, thank you for presenting your point of view.


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