I read with interest an article in the current NEA Today magazine. The title, "Teachers Crank That Soulja Boy," as well as the entire article, reminded me of, well, me. It talks about how teachers who are learning this dance are "connecting with students" and giving students "the opportunity to teach for a change." My philosophy of education - relationships with children - was referenced in black and white.
It was in the After School program that I first saw the Soulja Boy routine. After students worked for an hour, they were given the opportunity to break into groups and do non-academic activities. My group chose to dance. A short-in-stature-but-big-on-personality sixth grader, Montez, taught me the steps. I hadn't heard the song. So that night I looked it up on YouTube. (Everything's on YouTube.) Catchy song, I thought. Cute little dance. I was hooked!
I began "cranking" it all over the place. If my students answered correctly, they'd all shout, "Do the Soulja Boy!" I'd crank it in front of the classroom. At the school dance in the fall, I was out there cranking it with the best of them. I even downloaded the "Soulja Boy Instructional Video" for the After School Program so that we all could crank it.
Then at Christmas my son came home. My son is a 24 year old actor who's a whiz at pop culture. It's part of his business actually. I was very excited to show him how cool I am. Minutes after he got home, I started cranking.
He looked at me strangely. "Mother," he said. "Do you know what that song means?" Of course I did. I told him that "Soulja Boy" is a dance, and when we do it, we're "cranking that Soulja Boy." He laughed and then told me that there was no way he had the nerve to explain the real meaning to me. He suggested that I look it up on urbandictionary.com.
What I read was horrifying. I can't even figure out a way to explain what it means to "Superman," one of the repeated lyrics in the song. There is no nice way to say it. It's profane, it's disgusting, and it's not appropriate for the pre-teens that I teach. At the very least, it's only potentially appropriate for two consenting adults.
I wanted to cry when I thought about the times I thought I was "cool" performing it in front of my classroom. I have since stopped doing the Soulja Boy dance. I have dropped all references to it, and if the students ask me about it, I tell them that it's not appropriate. They always snicker - they actually know what the lyrics mean!
I wrote NEA today to tell them about my experience. I ended with "In the future, I'll investigate the products that I promote."
I'll never listen to the song or do the dance again. And I'll do everything in my power to keep lyrics like that out of the hands of minors in this sex-saturated society.
Crank THAT, Soulja Boy.