" ‘If You Don't Eat Your Meat, You Can't Have Any Pudding.’ " Why Teachers Need Pink Floyd At Their Next Inservice!

Pink Floyd, the consummate rock band, were educational advocates, whether or not they were conscious about it. They understood from experience the oppressiveness and failure of the educational system, and like a true rock band they sang in rebellion about it. 

For their loyal rock fans, what change did this education anthem bring about since the release of their message in 1979? I’m not sure if The Wall prompted any educational reforms in England, so I’ll be true to my egocentric American attitude and ignore the plight of the Brits’ learning to focus solely on asking if our own school of thought on educational reform changed since Pink Floyd warned us we were nothing but bricks in the wall. The answer is: We learned nothing, and we have done nothing but eat our pudding! We have not found recipes to make the meat more appetizing. Nothing has been reformed for over 3 decades; in fact, we have added more bricks to wall, and naturally, the wall has grown bigger, and the meat more rancid.

The disconnected, deviant policy makers and educational stakeholders didn’t listen to Pink Floyd then and don’t listen to Pink Floyd now, or maybe they’re closet rockers with an agenda to sabotage education. In any case, the powers that be, don’t care to read the writing on the wall because they want us to keep adding bricks to the wall.

But hey, we’re not off the hypothetical hook on that wall either. What have we done as a society to heed the rockers’ message? Well, as victims of the educational sabotage, not exactly our fault, since we’ve got bricks for brains, we interpreted the song literally! The song speaks of rebellion, but it also speaks of our conformity; we chose to listen to the conformist message, unfortunately!  Many adopted this rebellious anthem “we don’t need no education” without realizing that Pink Floyd was actually inciting us to demand an education, but one that spared us from the “dark sarcasm in the classroom” and “the thought control”; using double negatives work well poetically when David Gilmore sings the lyrics, but we would fail to impress anyone with this blatant grammatical error in our casual speech. Yet today, so many in our society speak this way, and this is exactly what Pink Floyd was trying to tell us: We need an education, or else not only do we sound ignorant, but we also become mindless drones devoid of original thought and individual expression. 

(Perhaps, Pink Floyd were staunch proponents of the importance of grammar too. I don’t really think so, but the idea would work well to support my argument.)

Despite the writing on the wall, I think few have sung this song in protest in front of school board buildings across the USA demanding we raise the standards in every school. I think that now more than ever the song speaks volumes, with speakers being unnecessary for the message to be heard, and with many people willing to play it so others will hear. The song's power lies in that even though Another Brick in the Wall failed to reform education then, today, if marketed properly, the song can be re-released through our social media to raise consciousness that we must tear down the walls we have built which prevent our students and teachers from being individuals and independent thinkers. 

Our schools whether they are in affluent or impoverished areas have so many remnants of antiquated methods Pink Floyd warned about. Our schools still have silent classrooms where students are never allowed to speak or express an opinion contrary to the teacher’s social, political or religious beliefs. Allowing students to have small and large group discussions is essential to developing critical thinking. Many teachers are afraid of using discussion strategies because of student discipline issues, and the risk of being burned alive by their own students as Pink Floyd cautioned! Teachers need quality inservices where they will gain the skills necessary to be effective leaders in their classrooms. Learning cannot occur if we cannot hold our students’ attention. We should not resort to lowering the standards or appeasing students with lights, colors and games to pique their interest. Teachers need quality inservices where they will learn practical classroom management skills which will then enable them to set high standards and present material to engage students in taking ownership of their learning.  Inservices need to be realistic too in addressing the human fact that teachers will not reach each and every single student.  This notion cannot be misconstrued to mean there are those students who we can give up on.  We must promote education for all, but we need to consider there will be those members who will contribute more and those who will contribute less. School systems need to listen to the song and realize contributing less does not mean the contributions will be insignificant or less valuable; it just means the contributions may not affect as many people in society.  Part of the educational oppressiveness Pink Floyd warns about is the propaganda of lies public education instills on our psyche: that intellectually we are all equals.  Every student regardless of his/her intellectual circumstances takes the same test. Every student does not have to go to college to be a successful, productive citizen, and there is no guarantee that every student who does go to college will become a contributing member of society. An education is relative to the individual’s life circumstances, upbringing, geographic location, ability to learn, the pace at which he/she learns, the response to different stimuli; in short, the number of factors that affect how a person learns are endless as are the possibilities for success or failure once an individual acquires an education. We must insist on equal access of resources so every American can obtain a quality education, but we must reject the idea that we are all the same.  

If you visit any school in the U.S., the landscape is evocative of the sinister agenda Pink Floyd sang about. Too many of our students and teachers have become factory-like drones, mindless and afraid to speak against the injustice occurring in our schools. Those students who have resisted conforming have taken extreme and often tragic measures to stand out as individuals; yet, misunderstood in their desire to be heard and misguided in their search for identity, they have been ostracized, and ridiculed. Our system has been an accomplice in enabling maladjusted students to become even more disturbed; rather than taking time to investigate, we have built a wall to avoid dealing with problems. Our ignorance of the issues, have enabled these lost students to resort to violence, hurting, and at times even killing innocent students and teachers because our system failed to read the writing on the wall that something was terribly wrong. We have more socially maladjusted children in our schools than ever before. School violence and school shootings have become commonplace, and depression and suicide rates among children continue to rise. Pink Floyd forewarned us of this total collapse in education with their shocking images of children using books as pyre to burn their school and their teacher.  Students build these metaphoric funeral pyres for their teachers on a daily basis in so many of country’s classrooms. We focus on who is to blame, rather than on rehabilitating our children’s psyche, rescuing our teachers, and putting out the fire with practical solutions.

Schools are social institutions; obviously, schools cannot be held responsible for curing all our social ills, or for the actions of the mentally ill; however, our schools have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all our children. When we build walls, we are blinded to the fact that bullying goes unpunished in our schools.  Our walls overshadow the fact that the system is broken, and there are teachers, counselors and principals who ignore our students’ welfare to pursue their own agendas.

An education does not solve all our problems, but it can alleviate and prevent many of our social problems. Our schools should no longer be called institutions because of what the word connotes; instead our schools need to be centers for inspiration, innovation and improvement. Humans have an innate desire to learn. Even prison inmates seek learning over idleness. How many of our schools are architecturally designed to look like prisons? How much longer will the spirit and minds of our teachers and students remain imprisoned behind the walls educational policymakers have built? As teachers, the wall we allow the educational leaders to build does not serve to protect us and ensure our survival; instead our own sanity and prosperity hang in the balance if we do not speak against the injustice we witness in our schools. We must not be afraid to replay the song for all to hear.

As raucous and rebellious as Pink Floyd’s song was, we put up a wall, and did not listen. At our next inservice we need to replay Another Brick in the Wall for our teachers, for our counselors, for our principals; we need to replay it for our superintendents, at our school board meetings and at all the meetings where educational stakeholders convene. We need to share recipes that reconcile the necessity to eat one’s meat before one’s pudding; the meat we serve needs to be so appetizing and filling that our students won’t crave the pudding. The meat will be satisfaction enough; it’s only the meat that will strengthen their minds and their bodies enabling them to tear down the walls brick by brick, releasing them of all thought control!


dcsblueyes said...

Truth is, that as much as we would like to fight this system, it is not to our benefit (politically speaking). Sometimes teachers try new things and someone always has to complain. Many times the complaint comes from the students, then the parents, then the administrators. Administrators don't want any complaints to go beyond the school, so they cave into the students' and parents' demands.

Unfortunately, after years of enduring fast changing opinions, ideas, etc. from administrators, one tends to fend off potential problems by constantly analyzing every angle of how you do things in your classroom to avoid a backlash.

Additionally, there is a lot of criticism coming from our own colleagues (teachers). Teachers are very competitive against each other. Some don't want to share ideas with others fearing their idea may be stolen and take credit for it. Or if you're doing something different, they may ridicule you.

The whole concept of Education, the institution and everyone involved in it is so complex that I just don't know if there will ever be a clear consensus of ideas with the ever changing ideas of every administrator that comes in.

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