Striving for a Culturally Responsive Curriculum

Striving for a Culturally Responsive Curriculum

In their 2017 primer on Culturally Responsive Education, researchers Johnston, Montalbano, and Kirkland write: “When students do not perceive their instruction to be personally and culturally relevant, student resistance appears in the classroom: resistance to curriculum, to instruction, to teachers, and to the very institution of school itself, which becomes constructed by the student as antagonistic to their identities.”

For the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, the goal has always been to engage students by meeting them where they are. We want to find the ways a student’s own identity, cultivated by their unique taste in music, can lead to a love of learning.

It was a bit sobering for us, then, to work through the recently published Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecard, and realize how many perspectives remain missing in our curriculum.

American popular music is a story best told by thousands of voices, who come from a myriad of racial, national, and gendered backgrounds. The scorecard reminded us how many of these voices we still need to represent.

We are proud that our Rumble lessons place Native Americans at the center of American history, not just as essential musicians, but also influential contributors to American culture. Moreover, we’re thrilled that our new CNN Soundtracks material incorporates recent events and artists that are likely relevant to younger generations.

But still, there is more work to do. In our curriculum, male musicians remain far overrepresented. The seminal role the Latinx community has played in American music is not nearly covered enough. Lessons pertaining to Asian Americans or people with disabilities are practically non-existent.

This year, it is our goal to make our curriculum more culturally responsive. March is Women’s History Month – be on the lookout for new lessons focused on female activists, punk rockers, and rappers. Later in spring, we will be publishing our first lesson featuring people with disabilities. And with June being the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, we will be publishing a collection of lessons that focus on LGBTQIA+ musicians and communities.

At Teachrock.org, we hope to ensure that every student can see themselves in the people and communities represented in our lessons. It is no doubt a challenging task, but I cannot think of one more worth striving for.

Ben Dumbauld, Project Manager