He may have recorded 13 Number One albums, won 17 Grammy Awards and sold more than 50 million albums in his 19-year career as one of the most successful recording artists of this or any era — in addition to his involvement in numerous other businesses including a minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets NBA basketball team — but some parents at DeSoto Central Middle School in Southaven, Miss., are outraged that their kids are learning about Jay-Z.
And they’ve gone straight to Fox News with the story.
Jay-Z (pictured), whose real name is Shawn Carter, was one of several subjects in a recent English class assignment for sixth graders, focusing on “resilience.” A spokesperson for the school described the exercise as an “argument assignment” in which students must take a position on the question, “Do a person’s circumstances determine who they are?”
When one “mad mom” glanced at her son’s homework, she saw red. She got in touch with Fox News personality Todd Starnes, who promised the mother anonymity “over fears of repercussions.” Then Starnes sprung into action.
Starnes called the school to ask why kids were learning about Jay-Z, whose lyrics often deal with “thug life.” The anonymous Fox tipster was especially incensed that one of the Jay-Z song titles listed on the homework assignment was “Big Pimpin’.”
“Let’s talk about somebody that is a success that has done good things — not thug life things,” Starnes reported that the mom said to him.
He said that the mom wondered sarcastically why the school doesn’t teach kids about Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, or Hustler Magazine’s Larry Flynt.
In fact, according to a school spokesperson, the “reslience” assignment in addition to Jay-Z, also discussed Nelson Mandela, Michael Oher (subject of the book and film The Blind Side), and Alfred Lloyd Tennyson.
Starnes said that the school stonewalled him, promising an official response but never delivering one.
But on a Facebook page titled DeSoto County Reform, devoted to criticism of the school district there, a school official did respond. Katherine Nelson, who identified herself as the school district’s communications director, said that Fox “did not run our statement and side of the story that we sent to them today at their request.”
Starnes later posted on the Facebook page denying that the school’s response was sent.
Nelson quoted the e-mailed response,, saying that discussion of Jay-Z, Mandela, Oher and Lord Tennyson, “served as a springboard for the analysis of the award-winning book, Wonder, in which the main character overcomes challenging life circumstances.”
Explaining the reasons why Jay-Z was included, Nelson said, “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."
The school is 23 percent African-American, according to Education.com.