Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How do you solve a problem like myopia?

Do you remember the brouhaha a week or two ago regarding President Obama's address to schoolchildren? I wrote about it here.

If, for some reason, you entered that situation in an Obamaphobic state of mind, and my brief outburst was enough to convince you to drop your faux outrage (hey, I can dream, can't I?), then perhaps you are looking for a new home for your habitual bitterness.

If that is the case, may I suggest you could more productively direct your anger here?

I mean, hell, if you're gonna get fired up over an authority figure trying to brainwash the kids, why not go after the real thing? The RIAA has, for a long time, been in the business of trying to re-educate schoolchildren. Among the topics on their agenda: filesharing is completely evil, "fair use" is hardly a legitimate defense, and music is essentially a product, which can't properly exist outside the context of a capitalist system.

All of which is misleading or untrue ("filesharing" can often actually be beneficial to artists, "fair use" is a fundamental creative practice, and music is much more than a product). And all of which fits in nicely with the general devaluation of the arts in public education. Because if, eventually, music can only be accessed from behind the walls of the sort of proprietary listening environment the RIAA dreams of, that will be one more obstacle-to-actually-getting-kids-excited-about-music that the 21st music teacher will have to deal with.

(Try for a moment to imagine how hard it might be to get fired up about some of the music featured on A Blog Supreme's Jazz Now series without the mp3s / youtube videos that accompany each post. Now imagine you're a 12-year-old trying to convince a friend to check out some cool new band you like without actually giving them a copy of the music.)

Want to prevent kids from sharing music? You may as well prevent them from listening to music. There are just too many other things they'd prefer to spend their money on. If they have no way of getting hooked on the power of music now, the chances that they will get hooked later (when they actually have some sort of disposable income) are fairly slim indeed. And ten years down the road, the ghost of the industry will still be wondering from which direction the coup de grĂ¢ce originated, and we'll be left with a culture in which the beauty of music is known only to a select few.

But don't despair. While kids' ears atrophy, they can do a project like this (click the image above for the full text):

Imagine that you are in the music industry, and you want to send a message about the consequences of songlifting [a neologistic riff on "shoplifting"]. Complete the chart below noting what each music industry professional would say about the effects of songlifting on their career. [...]

With your team of fellow music industry employees, plan an information campaign that lets others know why it's important to get their music the right way. [...]

Challenge: Take your campaign a step further by contacting the editor of your community newspaper or the director of your community cable television station to see if you can submit an article or a video about your campaign.

I'm half tempted to take these lesson plans into my own classroom just to savor the kids' reactions. But I more or less know in advance that they will laugh their asses off. Which is not to say that my kids are that much savvier-in-the-face of-a-hornswaggle than kids in other schools. It's just that kids in general are not terribly interested in pretending to be "music industry employees."

And only a music industry employee could be surprised at that statement. (It takes a special kind of narcissism, I guess.)

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No surprises as I narcissistically shill for the Industrial Jazz Group, right? We're having a fall fundraiser, in support of our October tour. You can find out more, and contribute to the cause (for as little as $1!), here.

Also! Check out the remix contest.

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