The Cutoff: A Look at Modern History Schooling
When I was in elementary school (sorry), I had three different “special” classes. We would go to them from, like, 2:00–3:00 PM, to “educate us” on specific topics, not ones that are covered in the curriculum. One of them is not important, but the other two were music and art. In music, we watched dumb, awful concept films about composers, and then our music teacher would yell at us about how great they are, and then we would bang on some xylophones and play some recorders. In art, we did essentially the same thing, but replace the composers with impressionists, and xylophones and recorders with crayons and clay.
And I hated both of those classes.
Now, a couple years later, I think about it, and why I hated those classes, and why I hated every history class from there on to now.
Because all of those things that we were learning about would apply to us far more if we lived in the time that those artists were active. If my class would’ve been able to go to twenty minutes of a symphony, that would’ve been waaaay more interesting.
But we still can, we still can observe poets and musicians.
IF WE LOOK AT THE ONES ACTIVE NOW.
There are hundreds of artists currently creating work at this moment. There are important poets right now, musicians, artists, everything. Why don’t we study these?
In my ninth grade requirement courses, history was not one of them. PE/Health (which I took the year before this one) is.
There’s plenty of room to throw in a modern history class.
I’m not telling these school systems to start teaching Death Grips in a unit called Noidism, but to be teaching art, displaying what art that is alive, breathing, still active, and portrays complex and philosophical standpoints. (If this involves teaching Death Grips, then that’s even better but regardless.) There are hundreds of slam poets that are giving first hand stories of homophobia, blatant racism, and discrimination right now. There are musical artists that are pushing boundaries and portraying a beautiful, nuanced message (deathgripsdeathgripsdeathgrips), such as Bright Eyes (sorry if I’m making anybody cringe) and Neutral Milk Hotel, and there are hundreds more that are active right now (Andrew Jackson Jihad, Kendrick Lamar, all of the DIY Queercore artists on bandcamp, Brand New, all of the shoegaze artists (specifically Pity Sex and teen suicide).).
And impressionism is still important, and all of the periods of time where artists were creating different types of work, when poets were writing romanticism, all of that is still important, and still definitely needs to be taught (better than it is now, but that’s not what I’m writing about at the moment) but I believe that there is room for a modern history curriculum.
Or at least teach the beat era. Good god.