Saturday, April 9, 2011

The saddest song

This was choral concert week at our elementary school. I admit that I’m not the biggest fan of these school concerts; the desire to make large groups of children sing in unison just seems a little creepy to me. Making matters worse, the songs often seem to have a propagandizing or indoctrinating purpose. I still get a kick out of my kindergartner’s performance of “I Love to Eat My Veggies” last year. (“I was just moving my lips,” she told me afterward.)

This year, mixed in with songs about penguins and pizza, we heard renditions of “Brush Brush Brush Your Teeth,” “Wash Your Hands with Water and Soap,” and “Drug-Free Me.” (One woman said, “What about all the kids on Ritalin?”)

But even I was unprepared for one of this year’s fifth- and sixth-grade songs, “Why Music?” The song started with some relatively innocuous verses:

Do you know what music brings to us
As we learn, as we go?

Do you know that music plays a part
In the way we can grow?

Do you know why?
Do you know why?
Why music?

Then, one by one, students came up to the microphone to speak these lines:

Everyone knows that music is part of a well-rounded education.

But did you know that music can improve our learning?

Music can help us make better grades.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

It can also help us perform better on standardized tests.

Music training enhances brain function.

Music is a core academic subject, just like math and reading.

Music students are more likely to achieve academic honors and awards.

Music students are more likely to achieve higher math and verbal SAT scores.

Another chorus, then:

Music education can help us integrate learning across the curriculum.

It can help us learn to pay attention, persevere, and solve problems.

Music may contribute to a more positive self-concept.

It can help us improve our social skills and teamwork.

It can help us express our feelings in a creative way.

Schools with music programs have higher graduation and attendance rates.

Music students are more likely to plan to attend college.

According to a Congressional resolution, music should be available to every student in every school.

Search the lyrics in vain for any indication that music might be meaningful, fulfilling, moving, beautiful, or fun. We make music because it raises our test scores and gets us awards. Baby Einstein lives!

I have to believe that the music teacher doesn’t actually think that this is why the kids should learn about music. I assume that music funding is so beleaguered that she feels compelled to put these words in the kids’ mouths in hopes of making her case in the only way our educational policymakers might hear it -- which only makes the song even sadder.

Another parent was so bothered by the song that he blogged his own response, with good suggestions for better ways to choose concert songs. (One of his tips: “Just don’t pick songs that nobody in the history of the world, including now, has ever loved!”)

You can listen to an excerpt from the song here. Just click on “Play MP3” -- it doesn’t cost anything, except a little part of your soul.


FedUpMom said...

Chris, this is terrific. Could you cross-post Kid-Friendly Schools?

I love the story about your kindergartener.

StepfordTO said...

Unbelievable! I'm tweeting a link to this right now.

Chris said...

Thanks, NorthTOmom! FedUpMom -- will do.

Seth Coster said...

Truly amazing. The only rationalization I can come up with for this song is that the music teacher has been put into the awkward position of justifying continuing the music program because of its "practical" applications.

Of course, when you frame the debate in that way from beginning, music has already lost, no?

Chris said...

Stoz -- No question about it. Music, and all of the humanities, have already lost.