Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hitler's Birthday Song

I’m thinking of instituting a new version of the Darwin Awards, those unbelievably funny yet tragic stories proving that humans were a design flaw in Evolution and getting stupider every day. Like the man who tied helium balloons in his lawn chair, sat down and suddenly found himself up in the air with low-flying planes. Mine would have to do with parents who complain about things at school and administrators who listen to them.

There was the parent who complained that a student-initiated cross-dressing day (part of Spirit week, like “come-to-school-in-your-pajamas,” “crazy-hair day” etc.) would turn all the children into homosexuals. She insisted it be banned and the school replaced it with “come-to-school-in-camouflage-and-army-fatigues.” Following the reasoning that dressing a certain way for one day would determine your entire future, the school made it clear that growing up into a killer doing greedy people in power’s dirty work was far superior to choosing to love someone in a different way.

Then there was the parent who complained that singing a song about poppy flowers would turn her child into an opium or heroin addict and another who claimed that lining children up in boy and girl order would not only call unnecessary and damaging attention to gender difference, but was illegal and she would take action. All of this would make for levity in a dinner conversation if it weren’t for the fact that administrators actually listened to these people and often decided in their favor.

But yesterday’s story took the trend to a new level of unbelievable stupidity. A colleague of mine at a prestigious alternative private school told how her music department was preparing the children for a concert with a soul-stirring finale of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” A parent at a private party cornered the music teacher and said, “I heard that Hitler liked to hear that song on his birthday. People coming to the concert who remember the Holocaust will be offended.” The music teacher made the mistake of sharing that with the head of the school, who promptly decided to remove the song from the concert.

Well, let’s keep going here. I hear that Saddam Hussein liked tomatoes. Surely we need to ban them from the school cafeteria. Osama Bin Laden wore clothes. All the more reason for kids to come to school naked. Papa Doc Duvalier played drums. Out with the music program! (Oh wait, that already happened!) George Bush spoke English (well, kind of). No more English in schools! And so on.

Not the happiest of stories for Mother's Day. Moms of the world, use your power for things that matter. Shake the administrators by the shoulders and shout, "How dare you deprive my children of the tools of artistic expression?! I demand reinstating recess!! My child is not a cog in your testing machine— stop it now!! Why aren't you paying the music teachers double—do you realize how hard they work and how important that work is?!!" 

And administrators, listen to them. Unless they talk about banning cross-dressing day, songs about poppies, occasional gender line-ups and Beethoven's Ode to Joy. Then suggest to them that they take a trip with helium balloons tied to their lawn chair. 

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