For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education

by Christopher Emdin

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A New York Times Best Seller

Featured in:, Education Week, Weekend All Things Considered with Michel Martin, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, PBS, Slate, The Washington Post, Scholastic Administrator Magazine, Essence Magazine, Salon, ColorLines,


A New York Times Best Seller

Featured in:, Education Week, Weekend All Things Considered with Michel Martin, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, PBS, Slate, The Washington Post, Scholastic Administrator Magazine, Essence Magazine, Salon, ColorLines,, Huffington Post Education

Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, a prominent scholar offers a new approach to teaching and learning for every stakeholder in urban education.

Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools. He begins by taking to task the perception of urban youth of color as unteachable, and he challenges educators to embrace and respect each student’s culture and to reimagine the classroom as a site where roles are reversed and students become the experts in their own learning.

Putting forth his theory of Reality Pedagogy, Emdin provides practical tools to unleash the brilliance and eagerness of youth and educators alike—both of whom have been typecast and stymied by outdated modes of thinking about urban education. With this fresh and engaging new pedagogical vision, Emdin demonstrates the importance of creating a family structure and building communities within the classroom, using culturally relevant strategies like hip-hop music and call-and-response, and connecting the experiences of urban youth to indigenous populations globally. Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, Emdin demonstrates how by implementing the “Seven C’s” of reality pedagogy in their own classrooms, urban youth of color benefit from truly transformative education.

Lively, accessible, and revelatory, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y’all Too is the much-needed antidote to traditional top-down pedagogy and promises to radically reframe the landscape of urban education for the better.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The most important work of pedagogy I’ve read in ten years...Dr. Emdin’s humane, and more importantly, effective practices, filled me with great hope and excitement to keep engaging with the community in which I teach.”
—John Warner, Inside Higher Ed

For White Folks ultimately teaches the unlearned lesson that a hip-hop people’s critical perspective must matter in order for authentic teaching and learning to take place, but more importantly the book offers a bigger case for colleges to make room for other hip-hop scholars.”
—Dr. Andre Perry, The Hechinger Report

“Dr. Chris Emdin...inspired me to become fearless while teaching for social justice. His commitment to young people showed me that integrity, humility and hope are three of the greatest principles a person can possess.”
—Bryan Mooney, contributor PBS NewsHour’s Education Lounge

“As the cries to recognize the relevance of Black lives in this country grow louder...Emdin’s advice about how to more effectively serve students (people) of color is a reminder that recognizing their humanity is a critical first step.”
Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

“Emdin’s For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y’all Too is a brilliant, blistering, and bracing call to arms for those who teach and learn in urban America. Pivoting effortlessly from street vernacular to sophisticated theory without losing the common touch—or the lovely language and lucid thought—Emdin reminds us that the children and young people who throng our urban schools are worthy of every attempt to sharpen their minds and prepare them for a satisfying life far beyond the classroom. If you’re looking for the revolutionary meaning, and imaginative transformation, of teaching for the real America, you’re holding it in your hands! Christopher Emdin is Jonathan Kozol with swag!”
—Michael Eric Dyson, author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America

“Emdin’s For White Folks is essential reading for all adults who work with black and brown young people...Filled with exceptional intellectual sophistication and necessary wisdom for the future of education.”
—Imani Perry, author of Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip-Hop

“From hip-hop to high theory, the journey Emdin takes us on is at once critical and compassionate, analytical and actionable. Through rich stories and well-developed frameworks, For White Folks offers a compelling and accessible road map for anyone (not just white folks!) teaching twenty-first-century urban youth. It also confirms Emdin’s reputation as one of the most important education scholars of our generation.”
—Marc Lamont Hill, author of Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity and Distinguished Professor of Africana Studies at Morehouse College

“A generation ago Ntozake Shange gave us a ‘choreopoem.’ Today, Christopher Emdin offers us a ‘pedagopoem.’ This volume is a powerful dance of teaching and art. It engages both the art and science of what teachers must do to be successful with all students. It is simultaneously lyrical and analytic, scientific and humanistic, a work of the heart and the mind. It belongs in every teacher’s library!”
—Gloria Ladson-Billings, the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Library Journal
In this book for white people but about students of color, Emdin (mathematics, Columbia Univ. Teachers Coll.) reflects on his experience as a student of color and offers a new pedagogical vision.
Kirkus Reviews
An award-winning educator proposes radical changes. Emdin (Mathematics, Science, and Technology/Teachers College, Columbia Univ.; Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation, 2010)—associate director of Columbia's Institute for Urban and Minority Education and recipient of a Multicultural Educator of the Year award from the National Association of Multicultural Educators—brings considerable expertise to his revisionist views on educating urban students. "Many urban youth of color," he writes, liken schools to jails, "oppressive places that have a primary goal of imposing rules and maintaining control." He blames educators who fail to recognize their students' "complex connections" and "particular way of looking at the world. Identifying urban youth of color as neoindigenous," he maintains, allows us to understand their feelings of "marginalization, displacement, and diaspora." For these neoindigenous students, he has devised a "reality pedagogy," drawn largely from Pentecostal churches and hip-hop culture, which aims to meet students on their own "cultural and emotional turf" and create ways to engage them in learning. Basic to his approach are the "Seven Cs," including the creation of "cogenerative dialogues," where students in groups of four become advisers to the teacher on classroom management and content; coteaching, where students take responsibility for imparting course material; cosmopolitanism, in which each student has responsibility for full citizenship in the classroom; awareness of students' contexts, the better to make connections between their lives and course content; and competition, where the hip-hop battle popular in urban communities is transformed into a Science Battle. Students need to understand, writes Emdin, "that the academic rap battle is not an attempt to co-opt their culture, but an opportunity to bring their culture into the classroom." That distinction blurs in some cases, such as when he advises one teacher to buy the sneakers her students proudly wear to generate a "rich dialogue" about fashion choices. An imaginative take on teaching sure to inspire controversy.

Product Details

Beacon Press
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Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Emdin is an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he also serves as associate director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education. The creator of the #HipHopEd social media movement and Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S., Emdin was named the 2015 Multicultural Educator of the Year by the National Association of Multicultural Educators and has been honored as a STEM Access Champion of Change by the White House. In addition to teaching, he serves as a Minorities in Energy Ambassador for the US Department of Energy.

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