Behind the Times

Has there always been a lag between education and the real world? Has it always been so that higher education in particular is insulated from the day to day pulse of life? And at what point, if someone is getting an “applied” degree, does the education of the student relate to the world where that “application” takes place?

I wonder all the time why it is that the world of vocal music education doesn’t RUN and EMBRACE new ideas and approaches, particularly when there are ever expanding music theater degrees being offered in music departments that were previously only classical. If the students are being wooed to come to these colleges by promises of “Agents’ Showcases”, “Meetings with Casting Directors”, and “Contact With Industry Professionals”, but the people teaching the courses in the department have no intention of “training to the marketplace”, how is that dichotomy being addressed? (Hint: it’s not).

I wonder, too, why it is that people who don’t sing well can tell other people how to sing. Is this because there is magic in the pieces of paper they hang on their wall? Is this because it doesn’t matter if you can’t do something as long as you can get someone else to do it? It is because they don’t know what to look for when they put up job notices? (Hint: all of these).

One of the oddest things about the human race is how quickly people want to blame the victim. It is also so that the teachers who do not have adequate means to educate a student to sing rock or pop music are very quick to say it is the student who is at fault. It is the student who is dense, doesn’t try, “likes to squeeze his throat”, “holds on to his jaw”, etc.

I read recently about an activist in coal country who went to battle with the coal mining company that owned the same mine in which over 20 people perished last year. The woman was fighting to stop mountain top mining, which leaves the mountain ruined, the water polluted and the ground contaminated. In some of the most beautiful rural areas of the USA, where people have been on the same land for 5 or 6 generations, the mining companies come in to lay waste to the entire area to get coal, one of the dirtiest fuels to mine, to process and to use. Did the neighbors join her? Did the people around her rally around her and help her fight the mining company? No, they threatened to kill her. They threatened to harm her family. She passed away last week from cancer (which is how I read about her), leaving as her legacy a new school far away from the noxious fumes that blew through the last school. Why attack her? Why not attack the bad guys? Because they saw her campaign as something that might cost them their jobs. Jobs that basically kill them. Every miner eventually dies from mining.

College teachers have to eat. They need a job. They don’t want anyone to know they don’t know. They are not going to speak up on behalf of the students if that might open up a debate they could possibly lose.

Students who intend to go to college to study music theater should be aware. Where you go and what you learn depends quite a bit on luck in terms of what you will get. You could get lucky and learn a lot, but you could also have much trouble and learn stuff that is not useful, or even harmful.

Most schools are behind the times. Remember that.

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