It's been awhile...

Hello everyone. Yes, it's been quite a summer. Sailing and driving and vacationing and pondering the absurdity of life. It was warm here in Maine today, and by that I mean over 80 degrees, that's fahrenheit for my Canadian readers...The hound and I went for a little row this morning, taking in the flat waters of the Maine coast, so rare. As we're getting on towards back to school time, my thoughts occasionally head in that direction, and usually to the darker sides of that direction. Do you know any teachers? Are you a teacher? Do you dream of becoming a teacher? Were any of you ancestors teachers? Is you brother's wife's third cousin's mother-in-law's college room mate a teacher? If any of this applies to you, give yourself a big hug, you deserve it for Septemberrrr, I mean August is here, the time we go back to school....and by we, I mean we, because everyone is affected by back-to-school time.

Don't believe me? You may not curse my name when you get stuck behind a school bus on your way to or from work in the next couple of weeks. 

But more importantly, to my point of this short pontification....Why are the schools of the US a dark subject to speak about? Is the students? No, the students, for the most part, are the best part of any teacher's day. Is it the teachers? Of course not. It is so rare to meet a teacher who isn't enthralled with their students or that doesn't thoroughly enjoy the relationships that they build with their students. So what is so dark about enlightening our youth, you ask?

All of the bull...stuff that teachers have to deal with that takes them away from valuable time spent with their students. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that it continues to pile on. It comes in the form of initiatives, new computer programs to track student learning, constantly creating new curriculums or learning about the new edu-speak buzz words, which are really just rehashed ideas from yesteryear given new packaging and making someone money (and that someone is not the teacher whose throat it is being forced down). The amount of cashola that local communities are spending on consultants, student data tracking programs, and cookie-cutter learning materials from a few large educational companies is ridiculous. You don't need to ask what my opinion is about whether that's money that's well spent. 

So why is all this happening? It's pretty simple in my way of thinking. Corporate lobbyists (from the large educational corporations) convince law makers on many different levels of government to enact policy tied to funding that forces local communities to send their money to the big corporations. In other words, looting the local coffers to make rich corporate types richer. The cycle get perpetuated. 

Yes, that was perhaps an oversimplified model but that's how it works. It's amazing how the same company's name is on so many of the materials that are present in a school...I'm not going to mention any names because I can't afford a lawsuit, but take a look around the next time you're in a school and you'll see what I mean.

So who can stop this cycle and get our systems back on the right tracks? I don't know for sure because as optimistic and sunny as I like to me, I'm not naive enough to think that money will ever stop talking and bull..stuff will ever stop walking. By the way, did you know that dried cow pies make an excellent fuel for a fire, as do buffalo pies, especially if you're crossing the great plains in a Conestoga wagon on your way to Oregon. Beware of Utah...but I digress....

I really believe there are people on the local level who can stop this cycle, on place at a time. Why don't they? I don't know. Certain people accumulate power, or what is thought of as power, and they get good at playing the political game, and we all know that somebody once said all politics is local (I got me some of that book learnin' from a history book). 

I guess I would like to believe that we, as a society, will get to a point where we put the kids first in education. Every teacher I know puts the kids first but they're being told to put data collection first, or a new initiative first. All of this stuff is a distraction, an impediment to what should be a teacher's, and a school's first priority- The KIDS! 

I'd like to believe that no one involved in education on a local level thinks that their actions are not in the students' best interest but I'm not completely naive either. I'm going to hold onto my belief, though, until it is proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be off base.

What does this matter to me as a musician? I learned my craft from a lot of places, but one of the biggest influence on me and my music were the music teachers I had along the way. They were all passionate musicians who guided my on my path, let me develop as an artist, and held me to account when I veered. I can still remember them all, all the way back to kindergarten. My other teacher were almost always there for me as well. I tend to, and always have, asked a lot of questions and it was very rare that any of them were frustrated by my incessant questioning (or if they were they hid it well). That encourages my songwriting, encourages my desire to explore and adventure, not only in music but in life as well. 

If teachers cannot be given the space to encourage those things, than students will not get those things, and a big chunk of our society will suffocate. Teachers are passionate professionals who need to be treated as such. If they are their students will do great things.