(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
I was astounded recently to learn from recent studies and surveys that, by and large, the events of 9/11 are not mentioned or being taught in a majority of history and social studies classes in public schools around the country. Why? Proponents of the ban say the subject is simply too controversial. Too complicated. Too easy for any attempts at teaching the topic to be misconstrued as misleading or partisan.
What is taught — and especially what is not taught — in schools should be of profound importance to everyone in this country.
That’s why I was surprised and pleased to recently hear Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announce that the city is embarking on an ambitious campaign to greatly expand music’s rightful place in schools.
Music education has traditionally been slighted or even ignored in this country as a so-called luxury or even as an elitist subject. Nashville, if it is to live up to its much-hyped title as “Music City,” has an obligation to lead the way in music education awareness.
Music education is not a frill, Dean said. “It’s essential to a well-rounded education.”
This program, called Music Makes Us, is not intended to necessarily turn out budding music stars or future music industry professionals, the way the programs at schools such as Belmont University and Middle Tennessee State University do very well. This aims toward a more complete education and an appreciation of and respect for the arts.
Of course, much of this will be dependent on how the school system reacts to being presented with a new program that will exist solely on outside funding and will be run by a yet-to-named outside director. And, as Gail Kerr points out in the Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean, this week, it wasn’t that long ago that the school system turned down an offer of 15 new Gibson guitars for use in schools.
Why? The gift was being made by Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, and the school board didn’t like the idea of a honky-tonk giving things to schoolchildren. The schools do already receive annual big bucks funding from the CMA Music Festival for music education, and I’m not suggesting that the school board will be anything but thrilled at this latest news from the mayor.
The projected program will allow students to experiment with songwriting and rock and hip-hop and all the rest that goes into making and loving music.
Country music history itself is in danger of eroding or eventually disappearing, outside of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Many critics say it isn’t relevant and that contemporary music is all that matters. But that’s a subject for another day.
But all of music history deserves equal consideration. Jimmie Rodgers is as important as Duke Ellington. Fred Rose, as a songwriter, rivals such writers as Lieber & Stoller. George Jones deserves equal consideration with Frank Sinatra (after all, Sinatra always said Jones was the second-greatest American singer ever. Guess who was No. 1.) Taylor Swift will live in history alongside Lady Gaga.
Those who write history control it. And those who teach it equally control it. Wikipedia has graphically demonstrated the ease of rewriting history. Certain politicians have displayed a remarkable skill at blithely revising American history for their own purposes.
But I cannot see how teaching music appreciation and history and technique can possibly be criticized or denigrated in any way.
Nashville is to be commended for its increasing commitment to teaching music. It’s a, shall we say, sound investment in the future.