Parents In One Town Have Concerns Over Jay-Z School Assignment

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(Southaven) He's rapper, a record producer and businessman, who Forbes magazine said was worth $500 million in 2012.

A teacher at DeSoto Central Middle School put the well-known millionaire in her lesson plan and asked her students to read and write about him.

That's not sitting well in conservative DeSoto county.

Most parents seem to be most upset about the focus on his music which some consider demeaning to women and celebratory of drugs, violence, the 'thug' life and heavily on the "N" word.

“I know a lot of children who don't listen to rap and aren't exposed to that, and they shouldn't be exposed at school,” said one parent.

Parents have strong feelings against the lesson which first popped up last year and has not just continued, but some parents say, has spread to other schools with assignments about Tupac and other artists who use language that some people here find offensive.

Heather Fox runs the Facebook page "DeSoto County Reform."

She's been bombarded with messages from parents angry about homework assignments involving celebrities which parents question.

“A lot of parents have felt brushed off when they called. They haven't been given answers,” said Fox.

Parents say when people complained last year they thought the assignment would be dropped not expanded.

A spokeswoman for Desoto County Schools didn’t immediately return calls for comment but they did post this statement on their Facebook page:

To explain a writing assignment at DeSoto Central Middle School:

The point of the assignment was to have students argue the claim: Do a person’s circumstances determine who they are? The overall theme of this English unit is resilience. It was an “argument assignment” in which students were to gather textual evidence to support his or her claim on whether Jay-Z allowed his circumstances to determine who he was. Students also analyzed biographical text about Nelson Mandela, Michael Oher, and Alfred Lloyd Tennyson. This served as a springboard for the analysis of the award-winning book, Wonder, in which the main character overcomes challenging life circumstances. Why Jay-Z? He was culturally relevant to the students. We have a diverse population in this school which has the highest academic growth and rating in the state of Mississippi.

Here is a post by one of the teachers who made the assignment:

One thing I have learned in my 37 years of life is that if you do not speak out against issues regarding you, then someone else will do it for you and possibly get it wrong. With that being said, I will speak out on my (and my colleagues') decision to do an argument assignment on whether or not Jay-Z allowed his life circumstances to define who he was and to support the claim that he has shown great resilience in his life. Let me clarify that none of his song lyrics were read, and he was in no way lifted up as a role model for children.

Many people suggested we read biographies on someone else. Are these people not aware of the immoral men who have populated our history books for decades?? One person suggested that we read biographical texts about Ben Franklin instead of Jay-Z. Franklin was well known for his scandalous affairs with women and frequenting brothels. Is this not harsh treatment of women?? Are we not to read about Thomas Jefferson who treated his slave women as concubines and fathered countless illegitimate children with these women? And for those of you who think private school is the answer, I am a graduate of SBEC (Northpoint), and I was exposed to a variety of texts and stories of people who were sinners. We even read poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. Are we not to read his poetry because he was a heroin addict? Are we not to read of the countless sinners that fill the pages of the Bible?? Where does it end? There is not a perfect person to read about except Jesus, and my friends, we can't read about him in public schools either! Get a clue and start partnering with your child's teachers and teach your children to use a Christian worldview in order to filter the evils of this world instead of trying to shelter them from them.

Lastly, I would like to address the comment made by a man asking: "Are they not going to read anything about any white people this year? " Really? Sir, it is 2013, and no one has time for that shallow way of thinking anymore. Please educate your mind.

It saddens me that people spend most of their day on public forums that do not address the real issues plaguing our nation today; such as the fact that countless American children go without food each day--Countless children that live in the Marcy projects of New York City -- the same hell that Jay-Z climbed his way out of many years ago. These are the things that should be demanding our attention. But I would be willing to bet the modest salary I get as an educator that Todd Starnes of Fox News will not be writing a story about those issues any time soon....