There’s a powerful scene in the movie The Defiant Ones with Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. They are a black man and a white man who escape from a chain gang chained together and when the one complains about racism, the other answers with “That’s just the way things are. Nothing you can do about it.” And the movie goes on to show him he’s wrong. You always have a choice and each choice that refuses to accept and allow ignorance and hatred to continue brings us one step closer to diminishing its power.
It may seem an odd way to introduce the next sentence, but tonight were the teaching lessons of the 29 students in my Level III class. As has happened repeatedly the past 8 to 10 years, the quality of the lessons touched me to the core—fun, imaginative, musical, energetic, flowing, touching on just about every faculty a good teacher wants to awaken in his or her students.
Some people think that training like this is not relevant to American music teachers who are required to simply count the beans the school board spills out on the floor, that they need detailed recipes that fulfill pre-ordained standards. But we do not teach to the person we already are. We teach to the person we long to become. We teach to the person we didn’t yet know we are (but always suspected it) and bring our slumbering soul awake and out of hiding. We don’t teach to continue the way things are, but to radically transform them to what they could be.
And in my considerable experience, when we give out the invitation to our students to dare beyond the norm, when we defy the expectation that the status quo is good enough, when we create the necessary safety that helps people risk, why, the people respond to it. I know all 29 of my students did tonight. And the result was glorious.
On this shrinking planet, we’re all chained together. Let us escape from the prisons we’ve created and be the Defiant Ones.