cover image Ratchetdemic: Reimagining Academic Success

Ratchetdemic: Reimagining Academic Success

Christopher Emdin. Beacon, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8070-8950-7

Columbia University education professor Emdin (For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood) offers an illuminating guide to decentering whiteness in the classroom in order to allow students of color to thrive. Co-opting the slang meaning of ratchet (“the embodying of all ‘negative’ characteristics associated with lowbrow culture”), Emdin proposes an educational model that teaches traditional academic subjects while uplifting BIPOC students’ “culture and community” and giving them agency over their learning. He uses his Jamaican mother’s disapproval of her fellow immigrants who were “too loud, too expressive, and too unabashedly Jamaican” as an example of how some teachers replicate the system “that silenced and harmed the very essence of who they were as students,” and argues that today’s “education-industrial complex” has its roots in “plantation pedagogies” enacted during the slavery era. Emdin illustrates his arguments with rap lyrics; the example of educators and civil rights activists including Septima Clark, whose citizenship schools, from the 1950s to 1970, helped illiterate African American adults “become part of the political process”; and stories of students of color who found success once they were given the freedom to pursue their own interests and speak without fear of having their language policed. This impassioned and richly detailed call for change will strike a chord with teachers in historically marginalized communities. (Aug.)