12.8.13: When the story came out last week that Drake was building a recording studio at North Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion High School I was confused. Headlines blaring, “Drake Gives Back to Needy Philly School” and “Drake In Good Guy Mode” didn’t exactly tickle my fancy the way it did for everyone else across the web and I thought, “well, I guess I’ll just leave it where it is.” However, as a Philly girl and hip-hop lover the story is just too close to home to simply “leave.”
I’ve never been an advocate for telling rich people what to do with their money, because frankly.. that’s why they’re rich; because they make their own financial decisions. The problem with Drake’s donation though is less about the intent and more about the outcome of what it represents.
As a product of the Philadelphia Public School system myself, I know firsthand how desperate the need is for funding and overall improvement in every aspect of the dozens of schools within the district and it’s only gotten worse in the past 5 years since I graduated.
Philly schools are consistently ranked worst in the nation and Strawberry Mansion is by far one of the worst. In March 2013, ABC News profiled the school exposing how incredibly dangerous it really was and revealing that it was at the top of the list to close at the end of the year because of over 300 million dollars in budget cuts; A school without hope they’d deemed it, that had just as many security guards as teachers.
Drake, who’d also seen the ABC segment, said that witnessing it he felt connected to the school and wanted to do something that gave them hope, but it seems that the lack of a record studio is the least of their worries. Currently the school has a less than 40 percent proficiency rate in both math (38%) and reading (11%) and a 33% graduation rate. In a situation like this one it should be clear that music isn’t the answer when poverty and violence are everywhere and educational value is at an all time low.
In a Forbes article about Drake’s donation the writer said,
“Areas like Strawberry Mansion? They may not have textbooks or sufficient staff or updated classrooms. But now, they do have a football team, a principal committed to sticking around – and thanks to Drake, a recording studio on the way.”
That quote essentially sums up the entire problem. A recording studio doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this school’s issues. What good is a record studio if these kids can’t read? How could they ever be genuinely successful in the music industry if they can’t even pass a freshman math class?