Thursday, 1 July 2010

Keeping the fear going.

That's the Daily Mail's job, after all. If it wasn't for their daily blast of shock-horror, the country wouldn't have anywhere near enough cases of heart problems and high blood pressure to blame on smoking, drinking and the overweight.

They are getting desperate these days though. Now that they no longer have Labour producing four or five blasts of insanity every day, they're scraping the barrel for their stories.

One such is the story of Muslim children being allowed to drop out of music lessons because Islam, in some interpretations, forbids them learning an instrument. This is, apparently, a Terrible Thing.

I remember school music lessons. They were compulsory for two years and I couldn't drop that one fast enough. Oh, I like music, but it always sounds better when someone else is doing it. If we'd had the rule that Muslim children could be excused music lessons I'd have been turning up with the Quran tucked under my arm.

We had to learn to play a perforated wooden tube called a recorder. No drums, no guitar, none of those instruments played by the bands we liked. Instead we had to learn an instrument we'd never heard of and which really didn't fit into the heavy-rock mould at all. I'm sure, in the hands of an expert, it must sound very nice but all most of us ever managed to produce was a fair impression of an asthmatic owl hooting into a drainpipe.

You can only make a living at music if you're good at it. I'm not and never will be. That was evident long before I left the infants' school and there should have been a note on my file saying 'On no account allow this child to sing'. It would have saved later music teachers considerable anguish.

Joining the school choir was compulsory. I was ejected on the first day (I think it was the second or third note), along with a couple of others, in case our tunelessness infected the entire group. This was in Wales, remember, where they are serious about choirs. We still had to attend the music lessons. It was pointless, it was like forcing blind people to sit in front of a silent movie for an hour, and there was really only one reason for it.

All subjects were compulsory to start with. Art, history, Spanish, French, Latin, music, woodwork - everything. Including those subjects that we could demonstrate complete incompatibility with by the end of lesson one. Even at that early stage we had separate biology, physics and chemistry lessons, not this watered-down green-tinged nonsense known as 'science class'. I don't know why there is such resistance to teaching Creationism in 'science class' since most of the rest of it is now based on 'this is just so, now shut up and believe' anyway. Perhaps it's not apocalyptic enough for modern green science.

Everyone tried everything and then we could choose which ones we wanted to do in detail for O level. Most of us had a pretty certain idea of which subjects we wanted to do by the end of the first term. After that it was an endurance test.

If those early music classes had not been compulsory they would have been smaller - but they would have contained only those who were interested in learning about it. If those art classes had not been compulsory I might have been spared the wrath of the art teacher on more than one occasion. He could whack harder than the chemistry teacher, too.

Some things must be compulsory. Maths and English are skills nobody can get by without. Everyone needs at least a basic grasp of those. Art, music, sciences, don't need to be compulsory quite so much. If you plan to be a builder, you'll be well served by knowing about gravity, about the reactions that set cement, as well as arithmetic and geometry but you don't need to know how to mix colours. That's the decorator's job.

These Muslim children are unlikely to grow up to be musicians, not because they have no skill but because their religion forbids it. If they leave their religion (assuming they survive that) and find they have musical ability after all, then it's never too late to put a skill to use. In the meantime, the fact that some Muslim children aren't learning to play Wheezy the Owl on a little wooden pipe is not a big deal at all. If they were being kept out of maths or English lessons, the uproar would be justified but music? It's not limiting their future career choices by very much, is it? I mean, they're certain to be allowed to take home economics classes. Chemistry, too.

I'd say the uproar is more likely to come from the other kids in the class. "Why do we have to keep doing this if they don't have to?"

The poor hacks at the Mail will soon be reduced to bikini shots and speculation on the biology of Lady Gaga's reproductive organs. They're pretty much at that point already. Today's paper includes another 'Oh my God! A fox!' story. The fox didn't bite anyone, it was just... there. Foxes can thank their lucky stars they don't smoke because then they'd really be in trouble.

I blame the government, you know. Their new, not-completely-lunatic approach is a hell of a culture shock for the rest of us.

Still, it won't be long before they do something outstandingly stupid. They are politicians, after all.

Just hang in there, Mail reporters. There'll be some proper insanity along any time now.


Ed P said...

Children are not Christian, Muslim or any other religion. It's an obscenity that indoctrination of the young is allowed. When they are old enough to understand (their parent's) religion, they might choose it or reject it, but inflicting such mind numbing control structures on the young is dreadful.
Music might allow them to escape this fate!

subrosa said...

I have to respond here re music in schools.

Back in the 50s in Dundee every child was offered the chance of playing a musical instrument -free. Such a bonus as any instrumental tuition was private.

The recorder wasn't included LI, that was for those who were tone deaf or disinterested. ;)

I was one of the lucky ones along with hundreds of others. My cello lessons were paid for for years along with friends who learned the flute, piano, trumpet, clarinet, oboe - you name it.

True, only a few made a living from their skills in later years, but they joy I've had from playing an instrument or two is invaluable.

My best school pal tried the clarinet and gave up after three weeks. She did try though but it wasn't for her.

Sadly today's children don't get the chance except for the recorder. I suggested recently at least give them a chanter and they could play the pipes later on, but no, guidelines say the recorder. Such a waste of talent and even more, an introduction to a hobby which could bring so much pleasure.

Leg-iron said...

Ed P - a difficult one. Children are not born with religion and should be free to choose, but children should not be wards of the State. They are the responsibility of their parents and it is up to the parents to decide what is best for them, until they are old enough to do it for themselves.

So, until they are old enough to decide, it's up to the parents to decide for them. You and I might think they make the wrong decisions but it's their decision. If we attempt to enforce parenting rules on parents, we become what we despise.

Education, not music, is what enables people to grow up and decide for themselves. At no point will I decide for them. Give them the information, let them draw their own conclusions.

I have enough to do, fending off those who want to decide how I must live!

Leg-iron said...

Subrosa - if there had been a variety of instruments, there'd have been more interest. As it was, there was one piano and one electric organ and those could only be touched by the ones who were already able to play. For the rest of us, the emphysemic owl impersonator was the only choice.

It was the time of Status Quo, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd - and they wanted us to learn the recorder. We wanted something electric and loud.

The only band you'd get into with a recorder was Captain Beefheart, and that's only because he was stoned most of the time and would have found it funny.

banned said...

I moved from Junior to Senior School with the embarrasing expectation of continuing with my violin lessons; happily my First Year curriculem required me to lug around my school bag, violin case and sports kit (sports ground being two bus rides away), clearly one of them had to go.

I did however take up classical guitar lessons at night school many years later so all that time spent learning to read music was not entirely wasted.

JuliaM said...

The problem with the Muslim children being taken out of school during music lessons is simply that no-one else would get away with it.

I watched a head teacher - the one who raised the concern - interviewed yesterday on the Beeb. She complained about how there was no right to be excused music under the legislation, yet when the interviewer pointed out to her that she was the head, so why allow it (yay!), she immediately and shamefacedly fell back on the 'well, for 'community cohesion'..' excuse.

Appalling. She should have stood firm and reported the children as persisten truants, not gone crying to the media to get someone else to fight her battles...

Captain Haddock said...

I agree with Julia here .. The Head concerned should have stood up for what she believes in (if indeed she really does) rather than capitulating .. by so doing, she is actually "Aiding & Abetting" persistent truancy ..

As are the OFSTED Inspectors who, apparently " .. often turn a blind-eye" ..

Personally, I've never really rated either Music or Languages as being particularly important subjects in schools .. if people have an interest in them, they will find their own way to pursue them ..

I'd far sooner have each & every child leaving school being able to swim to a standard sufficient to at least save their own lives and preferably with a Life-Saving Award .. And a recognised First Aid qualification ..

Both things which are of much more practical value than poor French or a tuneless rendition of "Rudolph, the red-nosed Reindeer" ..

Umbongo said...

Before we start worrying about music maybe the schools should teach children to read, write and do sums. I'm amazed that BT's chairman has only just discovered about the uselessness of our schools. As an employer who has attempted to use JobPlus to recruit, I could have told him that he's lucky if as few as 25% of the applicants for BT apprenticeships were functionally illiterate. The figure (for functional illiteracy and innumeracy) - if you want someone who can string a sentence together and put together a quote for services to be rendered - is nearer 80%. Of more concern - if that's possible - is that the figure's not much better if you restrict your recruitment pool to graduates.

Anonymous said...

Learning to play an instrument during primary and secondary school has been linked (more than causally) to an improved education for people from all backgrounds. It may seem unnecessary but it can help kids learn.There are several papers on this topic (all rather dry, and hard to read), so you shouldnt be so quick to label music as not very important.

opinions powered by