Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On Hard Rock and the Military

On Hard Rock and the Military: There's something quite fitting (and somewhat apropos) about mixing hard rock music with military operations. I mean, when you're engaging in war's infamous game of "kill or be killed," there's a certain aggressiveness that needs to infiltrate one's mind in order to function. In the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, for example, U.S. forces, particularly mechanized divisions of tanks and humvees were very fond of blasting songs such as Metallica's "Enter Sandman" over loud speakers as they moved across the Arabian Desert. I cannot even begin to imagine what the local Bedouin nomads must have thought when swarms of American military machines whizzed by their desert huts. But other than perhaps major stimulants like crystal methamphetamine, which many German soldiers were known to use in World War II, hard rock music is a tremendous motivator in wartime environments. In short, it's hard rock's frequent combination of distorted guitars, double-bass drums, and raspy lyrics that makes the genre a "natural" soundtrack for the military.

Monday, December 15, 2014

On Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth"

On Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth": First performed in New Haven, Connecticut, in October 1942, The Skin of Our Teeth quickly moved to Broadway within a month. The play, which focused on the Antrobus Family from "Excelsior," New Jersey, eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1943. As for the play's author, Wilder possessed a brilliant, yet eccentric, literary mind. Born in the Midwest, he was the product of two Ivy League schools (Yale and Princeton), and briefly served in the U.S. military during both World Wars. Being in the military gave him the unique experience of constantly facing the prospect of non-existence. And it was this kind of "existential-extinctive" feeling/theme that recurs throughout The Skin of Our Teeth. Biblical allegories and references aside, (especially to Sodom and Gomorrah), the play places the reader in a fictional twentieth-century Jersey Shore town, which is on the verge of entering another Ice Age. Ironically enough, a devastating war catalyzed the town's ultimate demise. But at the play's end, it becomes abundantly clear that despite the pernicious capacity of mankind to destroy, it's our collective will to rebuild which always triumphs.

Monday, December 1, 2014

On the Origins of Progressive Education

On the Origins of Progressive Education: Perhaps one statement, above all, captures American Progressive education in a nutshell: "If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." That statement came from pragmatist philosopher John Dewey (pictured above) in 1916. He was a staunch advocate of separating "education" from "schooling," by claiming that education is the process of living and schooling is the process of learning how to make a living. Decades prior, in the 1880s, similar sentiments had been expressed by American sociologist Lester Frank Ward. Ever the egalitarian, he asserted that one of the biggest sources of injustice in society "was the unequal distribution of knowledge." Traditional education, as Ward saw it, had become nothing more than a tool for the upper classes to reinforce social norms (the status quo). He also believed that traditional education's aristocratic roots persisted in a pre-modern form of tracking, which often groomed students for particular careers based on heritage instead of merit. In effect, Ward proposed that all students should have the opportunity to accumulate knowledge for knowledge's sake (and in any subjects they choose).