When Dr. Chris Emdin, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Columbia University’s Teacher College, thinks about education, he doesn’t think of textbooks stacked high on students’ desks or of term papers accumulating in a teacher’s mailbox, marked with bold red letters indicating final grades.
He thinks of Wu-Tang Clan.
In perhaps the most epic meeting of the minds, Emdin met GZA of Wu-Tang Clan on StarTalk Radio hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson back in the summer of 2012. They quickly discovered a shared interest in merging their two fields: education and hip hop.
Projects like the one with GZA—that manifested into a pilot program to use hip hop to teach science in 10 New York City public schools—continued to develop into other initiatives like the #HipHopEd social media movement. “That’s the future,” Emdin says. “Carving out a space where young folks can feel as though they can be academic but not sacrifice their cultural involvement.”
Since then, Emdin has explored the ways in which education and youth culture collide, and how we can inject a sense of innovation into the current standards of education in our society. “When you think about a place like Philly, you think about cultural history and a place where young people have taken the helm in how their city is represented across the world,” he says.
For Emdin, this starts within. He’s shared his experiences, expertise, and enigmatic stage presence with audiences all over the country from public school settings to this year’s SXSWedu conference. And while connecting with listeners and engaging them in the discussion about the complicated labyrinth that is education in the U.S. today, he is steadfast in remaining true to his roots.
“I try to be an unapologetic representation of the communities we want to serve and say we’re going to serve,” he says. “This isn’t your traditional talk, but that’s how you innovate, right?”
See Dr. Emdin talk about these issues and hear about his plans to “encourage educators and innovators to step outside of their comfort zones” at Drexel ExCITe Center’s Learning Innovation Conversation Series.
Tuesday, October 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., free, Mitchell Auditorium, Bossone Research Center, Drexel University, 3126 Market St., Register here.