(Memphis) A middle school principal is defending a homework assignment that upset some parents.
Teachers at Desoto Central Middle School assigned sixth graders to write about the life of Rapper Jay Z.
Some say the assignment was inappropriate while the principal says the project served a higher purpose.
The principal says he`s been getting phone calls from Philadelphia, even New Jersey, from parents who are upset about the assignment but he says the teachers have been assigning this for the last three years.
“We’ve only had two complaints in three years,” said Principal Duane Case.
Now, complaints are piling-up online and on his answering machine as parents and concerned citizens want to know when Jay Z became part of a school's curriculum.
“We are not promoting the way he talks. We are not promoting what he`s done in life,” said Case.
Case says sixth grade teachers are teaching a nine-week lesson about overcoming life challenges.
Jay Z was just one of a handful of people studied.
Others included Michael Oher, Nelson Mandela, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and a fictional character in the book “Wonder."
They are all people who’ve risen above their circumstances.
“Some people have taken that one small part and added their own little twist on it,” said Case.
“There’s just so many other people that could be used,” said Concerned Citizen Heather Fox.
Some say Jay Z, who admits selling crack and shooting guns as a teen, is someone they don't want their kids studying or looking up to.
The principal says the students were never told to read his lyrics, or get deep into his past, only to read a watered-down version of Jay Z’s history on a student-approved website www.biography.com.
“We just wanted to clarify that. That is not what we did, glorifying anything that he`s done. If we study the holocaust that doesn't mean that we are glorifying Hitler.”
Case says it’s all about the "bigger picture" learning about diversity and adversity and how you can rise above it.
“You can overcome anything if you continue to work.”
While the principal says the teachers are going to continue assigning this project in the coming years, they will consider taking Jay Z out of the assignment.