Assistant Professor in Curriculum Studies

Keith Cross

“I am especially interested in the role of song in the cognition and learning of those who compose/perform lyrics and those who engage with lyrics as audience.”


Los Angeles, CA (Hawai‘i is more like home)


Curriculum Studies

Related Degrees

  • MEd, Curriculum Studies: Literacy Specialist

PhD – Race, Inequality and Language in Education, Stanford University; BA – Religion, University of Southern California

What is your current role at the COE?
I am an assistant professor of multilingual and multicultural education in the Department of Curriculum Studies (EDCS).

What drew you to this department in particular?
Working in curriculum studies, I have the freedom to think creatively about ways to make educational experiences that are maximally empowering and enjoyable for students as well as educators. I took this position because I wanted a job that I could not wait to get to everyday. Likewise, I want schools (or other education centers) to be places that students and teachers cannot wait to get to everyday!

How did you become interested in multilingual and multicultural education?
I have a deep love for cultural productions involving language, such as stories, slang, and wise/clever sayings. I am especially interested in the role of song in the cognition and learning of those who compose/perform lyrics and those who engage with lyrics as audience.

Lyricism, which I define as the practice of communicating ideas through the composition and performance of song lyrics, was once central to the education of many (if not all) cultures, wherein lyrics were the medium of choice for transmitting complex knowledge of the physical, social, and spiritual world. Ancient cultures apparently understood that, given the capacity for the human mind to process and recognize patterns, and to comprehend through narrative and analogy, lyrics were an effective and efficient way to organize human language for the transmission and preservation of human/cultural knowledge.

Presently, lyrical practice, education through lyric (and the psycho-sociological power thereof) has been left almost entirely in the hands of the entertainment industry, only occasionally imported into formal educational settings as a tool/trapping to facilitate student engagement. However, I think that lyricism is a discipline whose educational potential is worthy of examination, independently of the prevailing curricular priorities of schooling. Thus, in my teaching and research, I focus on the interdisciplinary study and application of lyricism in three aspects:  1) the development and use of musical oral repositories as cultural and educational resources, 2) the use of lyricism in language acquisition and language learning, and 3) connections between extensive lyrical practice and cognitive function.

Briefly describe the importance of this field on education.
It is through language and culture that much of human knowledge and learning is mediated. As such, in my opinion, they are among the educational topics most worthy of our attention.

What is your philosophy or approach to teaching?
Teaching should empower, period. Teaching that does not empower is a waste of learners’ time and energy. I see my role as teacher as recognizing the knowledge and power my students bring into the learning space, helping them to recognize the same in themselves if they are unaware, and assisting them in harnessing and expanding their knowledge and power through and in relation to the course content.

What course(s) are you teaching this fall?
I am currently teaching EDCS 630 (Cultural Diversity in Education) and EDCS 606 (Introduction to Research in Curriculum & Instruction). In the Spring Semester, I will be teaching EDCS 440/STE 440 (Curriculum Implications for Multicultural Education) and a new course I will offer, EDCS 640m (Seminar in Interdisciplinary Education/Special Topics: Imagination-Based Education).

What is something your students might be surprised to learn about you?
I am a seasoned songwriter and performer of rap and soul/R&B music, and I am an expert at rap improvisation (i.e., free-generation of novel rap lyrics in real-time, freestyle).

I'm interested in learning more about a degree or certificate in Curriculum Studies.

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