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Thinning the Herd in Michael Eric Dyson’s Jay-Z Seminar

Recently, news outlets including The Nation reported that eminent African-American scholar Michael Eric Dyson has been teaching a seminar on Jay-Z’s “art and craft” at Georgetown University.

Unsurprisingly, the class is a huge hit, with over 140 students enrolled.

While this number is cited by Dyson as evidence of the seminar’s success, it raises the question of how effective this class really is for the students taking it, as opposed to an occasion for Dyson to hear himself talk while TAs handle all the actual discussion groups…

Wouldn’t it be a more successful undertaking for everyone involved if the class size was pared down to the point that each student could expect to interact with the brilliant Dyson, and to work out their ideas in freewheeling discussions? That’s kind of tough to pull off with a group that’s four times larger than the average Georgetown class.

Dyson’s fellow Georgetown scholar, Kelley Wickham-Crowley, faced a similar quandary when she taught a class on “The Lord of the Rings” several years ago. (It was actually a sneaky way to get people to sign up for a medieval literature course with a side dish of Tolkien, but that was forgivable because it was a really GOOD medieval literature course.) Needless to say, students perusing the course catalog jumped when they saw a course based on such a compelling pop-cultural topic and the signups were off the charts. But to avoid holding the class in a cavernous lecture hall, Wickham-Crowley greeted the class on Day One with a test to ensure they had read and remembered “The Lord of the Rings.” Everyone who failed the test was kicked out. Brilliant!

Since Michael Eric Dyson is a busy guy, ROTI created this test to help him out. It’s a simple 15-question examination; get fewer than 10 questions right and you’re outta there! Administering this bad boy would separate the true Jay-Z scholars-in-training from the dumb-asses who just wanted to get 3 credits for a class about a rapper.

Let’s begin! Answers are at the bottom of this post.

1. According to the song “December 4th,” Jay-Z was concieved when his parents, Gloria Carter and Adnes Reeves, made sweet love under what kind of tree?
a) Weeping Willow
b) Oak
c) Sycamore
d) Dollar Tree
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