AURORA - On every other day of the school year, Matt Klassen teaches theology in the Boys Division of Regis Jesuit High School. Tuesday, he showed students his other life as "Paradox", rap recording artist.
"The rhymes that I write are informed by my viewpoints on theology," Klassen, teacher of Theology, said.
Klassen is presenting a lesson taking an academic look on the music of Hip Hop. He is one of 60 presenters taking part in Regis Jesuit High School's 8th Annual Diversity Day.
"Given that they're a relatively homogenous group as far as socio-economic status goes," Klassen said. "A day like this helps to highlight that diversity is not about poor versus rich or Black and White."
Students took a break from regular classes for the day to learn about African drums, salsa dancing, the role of women workers during World War II, or the issue of genocide in Darfur.
"We wanted to take sort of a dynamic approach to diversity," said Lindsay Glasscock, Director of Diversity for the Girls Division, said. "It's not just celebrating traditions and the roots."
Uche Agwu is a junior at Regis Jesuit. He was surprised at his teacher's skills at rapping and knowledge of the social and political statements made in the songs.
"I usually wouldn't imagine him like he was today," Agwu said. "It was really cool to see him rapping."
Last year for Black History Month, a school official posted a display which in part depicted slavery and acts of violence against African-Americans. Though school officials meant for the display to be thought-provoking about the disturbing parts of American Black History, some families were offended.
"A lot of people were mad," Agwu, who is African-American, said.
This year, the school decided to focus more on their annual Diversity Day instead of doing something specifically for Black History Month.
"We try to take a sort of wider scope view, because we feel as though that's a better way to educate our population," Glasscock said.
While the 8th annual Diversity Day is not a direct response to what happened last year, it is the biggest one to date. Klassen hopes, this year, the school community can celebrate the positive aspects of diversity together.
"If that helps to appease parents that were frustrated by certain things, great," Klassen said. "That's a fringe benefit."
So, as students learn together, dance together, and rap together, Glasscock hopes that they will learn a lesson about life, not just about school.
"It's also our intention to share with our students that diversity is part of who everybody is, every single day," Glasscock said. "Now, tomorrow is where the work begins."
Diversity Day is just one event put on by the Diversity departments of the Girls and Boys Divisions. Glasscock says presentations are made all year long, because it is a vital part of the mission of being a Jesuit school.
Klassen raps to students about God and some of the struggles teens face today. He looks at how rap looks at issues like drug use and racism. Klassen hopes his students can see that Hip Hop music can be much deeper than what students see on the surface.
"We aren't separated from the things of the world or afraid of them or insulated," Klassen said. "We really try to help students to engage with those things in a meaningful context."
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