Teach Your Children Well: A Coverfolk Mix
In Celebration of The National Teach-In (February 17, 2017)
Sundays mean lesson planning, in the world of public school teaching. And so, although white-out conditions outside my cozy living room window suggest another snow day tomorrow, I’m looking ahead to Friday, where – in solidarity with those currently calling for a general strike – a few fellow schoolteachers and I are spearheading a National Teach-In in response to ongoing policy concerns which we see as harmful to truth, public education, common decency, and the dignity of our students and their families.
Because a well informed electorate cannot be taken advantage of by “alternate facts”. And because as educators, we believe it is our duty to develop that informed electorate within our own communities.
Historically, teach-ins are a form of civil disobedience, in which professors stand outside the canon, plying their status and knowledge on behalf of the counterculture. But in a very important way, regaining our footing by reclaiming our classrooms and hallways as strongholds of truth and justice is a restorative act, not a political one.
Teaching about the three branches of American government, and their checks and balances, are as innate to the History curriculum as the history of protest song, and its effects and effectiveness. Exploring popularity polls and gerrymandering are perfect pursuits for the Math teacher required by administration to make connections to the real world as they teach. Covering climate change, resource management through pipelines, and other issues currently on the ground in the Sciences is cemented into the pathways we must follow. Art and Music owe themselves to explore the way in which their forms are and have been utilized to speak truth to power, in our past and in our present.
Indeed, arguably, to NOT integrate the larger on-the-ground issues of our time and temperament into the classroom is to abdicate our responsibility to the highly-politicized infrastructure in which teaching and learning currently stand.
To join the Teach-In, then, becomes merely a matter of tweaking the pacing guide, and then delivering a lesson mindfully and joyfully, knowing that others across the nation are doing the same. And if it feels subversive, then perhaps that merely means that this is what teaching should feel like.
And so – since the Common Core Standards which guide my practice as an English teacher mandate that I prepare my students to “Analyze…[the] particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature” – I will spend this Friday with my students analyzing the promise of the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, and move from there to explore the particular standpoints and imagery of a series of poems by immigrants and second-generation Americans struggling with their identity, before they engage in clarifying and exposing their own cultural perspective and its expression through the creation of poems, essays, posters and more.
And so, today, here and now, we offer a set of topical songs which speak to the potential of the classroom to truly prepare students to engage politically and deliberately in a world drowning in alternate facts and social media echo chambers – both in celebrating its success, and in admonishing its failure.
There are plenty of songs with school-as-setting out there in the universe; we’ve covered them before. There’s a few songs, too, which reference learning, and the academy itself. But today’s parameters are narrow: songs which speak specifically to the act of teaching, either for its relevance to the real, in preparing our next generation for the social and civic world, or – more frequently – for its failure to connect students to that which matters most. And thanks to the crowdsource, we’ve come up with just enough for a fine mix of coverage.
So listen, and rejoice in the fact that even in the midst of a world driven by metrics and testing, there are still enough of us who remember that the essential purpose of education is prepare our students to take on the mantle of critical, deliberate, imaginative world leadership, and are determined to maintain our classrooms as spaces where mindfulness, critical thinking, and social justice aren’t just welcome, they’re part and parcel of our daily practice.
And if you are a teacher, or just know one, please share this post, or the National Teach-In Facebook page, with every teacher, student, and parent you know – both to help us spread the word about Friday, and to stand in solidarity with those who know that knowledge is power…but that only wisdom is liberty.
Teach Your Children Well: A Coverfolk Mix
…now available in handy zip format!
- Sadie Jemmett: Teach Your Children (orig. CSNY) 
- Mike Dezavelle: Wind Up (orig. Jethro Tull) 
- Ronny Cox: I Ought To Know (orig. Jack Hardy) 
- Fionn Regan: Getting Better (orig. The Beatles) 
- Joe Crookston: The Logical Song (orig. Supertramp) 
- Dangerous Folk: Leave It Like It Is (orig. David Wilcox) 
- Iain MacKintosh: Flowers Are Red (orig. Harry Chapin) 
- Anti-Flag: What Did You Learn In School Today (orig. Tom Paxton) 
- Albi and the Wolves: Another Brick In The Wall (orig. Pink Floyd) 
- Edwina Hayes: It’s A Hard Life Wherever You Go (orig. Nanci Griffith) 
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