Monday, February 7, 2011
TEACH THE ANTHEMS
I briefly taught at a charter school for about 8 months a few years ago. Each day, I asked each class if anyone had a song they wanted to sing. A little girl got up, created a beat with her little foot, and proceeded to sing, "I'm A Gangsta"...apparently, this morning, we have another, unfortunate reason why EVERY school in America needs Music teachers at every level...and hymn books --red, green or beige (props to Nolan Williams)--perhaps, need to make a comeback to the back of the pews. The anthems are in there--all of the verses--and some of the verses are more powerful than the ones we normally sing (or attempt to sing).
Perhaps it's time to take the celebrity out of National Anthem performances, and give the opportunity to some good-singing, sharp-minded kid who hails from the city where a particular game takes place. It is inexcusable to butcher the anthem of the nation on the occasion of an internationally televised event ...actually...on ANY occasion. Is it just that no one is teaching these songs any more? Is no one teaching songs in a way that they will have meaning, and children will not only learn them, but embrace them for life?
I remember Miss Leona Williams had an old wooden piano in our kindergarten classroom. I know now that it was out of tune, but we sang. All the way through elementary school, we started the day standing, and reciting The Pledge of Allegiance, then singing "We Love Our Flag", "My Country 'Tis of Thee", '"The National Anthem" and "Washington" (written by Mouseketeer Jimmy Dodd). During Negro History Week (yes, Negro, yes WEEK), teachers added 'Lift Ev'ry Voice". Even through high school, NO assembly began without The Pledge, and at least one anthem and the school song. Today, many schools begin the day with a stringent focus on Reading. Ummm, can ANYONE see the connection between Music/singing and Reading? Can anyone see the connection between Art and EVERY other discipline? With the technology we now have, a teacher can be totally tone deaf, but still include Music in the school day, and teach children songs that , I think, every child should know. What ever happened to the "Interdisciplinary Team Teaching" initiative, and "Every Teacher is A Teacher of Reading"? Were they just educational fads someone thought were good ideas, or just another book selling opportunity for some author? NO school should be without Music/Art instruction. Learning the National Anthem should be a requirement in EVERY American public school. There are so many ways it can be added in the lesson plan of Art, Music, Mathematics, Social Studies, English, Science, even Gym teachers. A child may not be able to sing, but they sure can learn the words, what they mean, and the context in which the song was written.
( Parents, YOU are your child's first teacher. Lose the attitude that teaching is "not my job" and "that's why I send my child to school". Send them to school ready. Talk to them, and leave out the profanity. Read to them and instill a love of words, critical thinking skills, and imagination. At least teach them how to say and spell their names, and YOUR name, their address and phone number, THE numbers, and alphabet...and a song-- that sounds appropriate coming out of the mouth of a child. You never know, one day they may be on TV singing a song, and won't forget the words or tune because you taught it to them. )
Oh, by the way, by the time the charter school told me that my services were no longer needed, those little girls could sing, among other songs, "The National Anthem","Lift Ev'ry Voice", "Washington", and "The Green Grass Grows All Around" --A capella. What? You know I can't play anything but the radio. They also learned "If I Only Had A Brain". What? Of course I taught it to them. It's my favorite song.
I learned it as a child.