Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Prescription for success: become a ninth grade dropout

Yes, you read the title correct.  It's hard to imagine someone who did not complete the ninth grade becoming a success.  While not a standout academically, he was interested in English and would read the dictionary filling an arsenal in his brain with copious amounts of words.  This hobby would serve him well in his adult life.  You may know the rapper from Detroit.  His name is Marshall Mathers, but he is known as Eminem.

American public schools and parents teach that the road to success in life is through education.  Graduate high school with good grades.  Do well on the SAT.  Then, a place in a college classroom will await you.  Following this educational tunnel, are a good job and money.

Eminem's success goes contrary to the pathway of success defined by what our society has taught us throughout our childhood.  His upbringing involved frequent moves forcing him to enter two or three schools in an academic year.  This resulted in him being bullied frequently.  He was beat up and thrown into lockers.  His welfare ridden childhood did not leave opportunities for him to mature and develop as "normal" American kids would.

His interest in English propelled him to pursue another interest, rapping.  The pale white kid from eight mile, began rhyming words together.  He found ways to make any word rhyme even if it meant "adjusting" the pronunciation.  In a 60 minute interview this fall with Anderson Cooper, the slim Eminem showed this technique using the word orange.  He reeled off a verse following a pause worth two breaths that would make Robert Frost smile with giddy.

His rhyming technique was used in the battle rap scene of Detroit.  He faced discrimination from black folks who didn't feel like he belonged.  The challenges he faced fused with a difficult childhood left him full of rage.  However, it gave him ammunition to make lyrics that could make people relate to him.

His second place finish in the rap olympics in the late 90's brought the lyricist to the attention of former NWA member, Dr. Dre.  The two met and worked seamlessly on Eminem's Slim Shady LP.  It became an instant success and featured the billboard hit "My Name Is."

Over a decade later, the bullied boy who did not reach tenth grade has outsold any rapper in the history of the genre.  His success does not negate what society teaches in terms of how to be successful.  However, it is not the only way to be a success, and an education is not always the prescription.  He figured out a way to use his interests and a difficult childhood to become successful.  That is a prescription for success.


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