Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week

Yeah, right. Let’s set aside a week to pretend we give a rat’s ass about honoring our teachers, spend a few moments thanking them and then get on with the work about treating them like dirt. Pardon my cynicism here, but I’m a bit weary of this naïve happy American solution to organize society around choices bad for culture, community and human health and then have a day or week or month to honor all the things we spend the rest of the year disrespecting. Not okay with me. Tom Lehrer nailed this down back in the 60’s with his fabulous satirical song, National Brotherhood Week. As follows (better sung—try to find it):

Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks.
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise,
As long as you don't let 'em in your school.

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
And the rich folks hate the poor folks.
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It's American as apple pie.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans 'cause it's very chic.
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand.
You can tolerate him if you try.

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
It's National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.
It's only for a week, so have no fear.
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

That about sums up the political side of Teacher Appreciation Week. However, on the personal side, it’s never a bad idea to reflect on those teachers who helped make us who we are and thank them publicly or privately. For me, that would include my first Orff teacher Avon Gillespie, my college music teacher John Ronsheim, my first jazz piano teacher Art Lande and my Zen Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Of course, countless more, including all the teachers I’ve never met, but have read their books or listened to their music or heard them speak. So thanks to teachers and while we keep working on making ourselves worthy of sincere appreciation, let’s also get organized to insist on our value, both monetary and cultural.

And for all those folks sending letters of appreciation, feel free to enclose a check. J

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