When teachers give students a research assignment, the subject is usually someone students should try to emulate.
That wasn’t the case at John Fiske Elementary School on the South Side, where a substitute filling in for a teacher on extended leave, asked sixth-grade students to research the controversial Chicago rapper Chief Keef.
Among other biographical facts, students were required to know where the rapper was placed on house arrest and who shot him when he was 16.
“I had never heard of him. But after careful research I found out that his music is about having sex, using the ‘B’ word, anti-police and supporting gangs,” parent Katrina Sanders said.
“What happened to the musical composers? The music that this teacher is presenting is the very thing that the children don’t need: profanity, drugs and acting as if being arrested is a badge of honor.”
A spokeswoman for the Chicago Public Schools said Principal Cynthia Miller was unaware of the questionable subject matter.
“This inappropriate project was immediately suspended by the principal as soon as she learned about it. While teachers have flexibility in making assignments, CPS requires them to provide age-appropriate material in the classroom,” spokeswoman Emily Bittner said.
Sanders said she had complained for a couple of weeks, and staff failed to relay her concerns.
CPS declined to identify the music teacher but confirmed she is a substitute. Miller did not return my phone call.
Chief Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, has been associated with gang-related shootings and is unable to travel to his hometown because of an outstanding warrant for unpaid child support.
The young rapper is known for his violent lyrics. Before breaking out as the next big scene, Chief Keef did a stint in juvenile detention for violating his probation by brandishing a weapon in a rap video.
Last summer, Chief Keef took aim at Mayor Rahm Emanuel, tweeting he would run for his office after the mayor nixed a Chief Keef concert. The mayor said the music posed a “significant safety risk.”
When Chief Keef tried to appear by hologram at a hip-hop concert in Hammond, Indiana, police shut down the venue.
Frankly, in a city where children are both victims and perpetrators of a lot of the gun violence that has stigmatized Chicago as a dangerous place, that kind of censorship isn’t so tough to swallow.
It’s not simply that a lot of adults find Chief Keef’s music offensive. After all, there was a time that Elvis Presley’s gyrations sent parents over the edge.
Nor is it Chief Keef’s “I’m-rich-so-I-can-do-whatever-the-#@%&*-I-want-to-do” attitude that is upsetting. That’s obnoxious but expected.
The Chicago rapper is a magnet for violence.
Last summer, a car fleeing a gang-related attack fatally struck a toddler in a stroller within reach of the child’s mother.
Killed in the earlier drive-by was Marvin Carr, 22, who went by the name “Capo,” and was a member of Chief Keef’s “Glo Gang.”
Capo had just returned from a recording session in Los Angeles when he was fatally shot.
On Monday, Sanders went on YouTube to rail against the principal’s lack of oversight.
“We don’t send our children to John Fisk to learn about some dog-gone Chief Keef and how many times he has been shot and what house arrest crime he is on. My son is not exposed to this kind of music,” said Sanders, who is a minister.
At the very least, school lessons should turn on the light not wallow in darkness.