Wisdom Begins with Wonder

Commencement Day

Blue Scholars are one of the best music groups to arrive on my musical consciousness in recent years.

Their song, “Commencement Day” actually got a teacher placed on administrative leave in Spokane, WA for sharing it with his students. Oh, the irony!

Enjoy and judge for yourself (NOTE: the song does contain multiple profanities, although not the “f-word”):

There are times that I wonder not how but if we can fix our educational system. Luckily I’m an eternal optimist. I’m also a realist – so I focus much of my energy on what I can do in my classroom to minimize my role in the forced indoctrination of our young people. Beyond that, I gladly share my opinions – with anyone who will listen – about testing, grades, professional development, the purpose of school, punishments and rewards in school, etc.

Are we just tilting at windmills?



6 comments ↓

  • #   Sydney on 03.14.14 at 5:58 pm     

    Hello Tyler,

    My name is Sydney Potter. I attend the University of South Alabama and I am required to comment on your blog for this week. I really did enjoy the song. It’s more for an older crowd because youngsters wouldn’t be able to understand it that well. I could kind of see why it shouldn’t be played in schools because it is very opinionated and some people may get offended by the things that are said in the song. I agree with what you said, people should be more open to ideas and help improve the education system to become better instead of waiting on others to do it.


  • #   Kevin Reese on 03.22.14 at 6:40 pm     

    Mr. Rice, I am a student at the University of South Alabama and I am a student in EDM310, and your blog post was chosen for me to comment on. Your blog post, “Commencement Day,” opens the door for a lot of discussions, but I will comment on your central idea of, “Are we just tilting at windmills?” The “Academy” still has a lot to accept the many beautiful, diverse cultures that exist in America, and the numbing of many a great brain starts in our classrooms with topics like yours. I believe that is what the video is about, educational revolution, something that I am learning a lot about in EDM310, perhaps on another level, but involved in the “re-education” of students away from the old teaching methods. I often wonder where the people come from who always “tilts at windmills,” but I found they actually don’t come from families: they come from the archaic way they are being taught in their schools; unable to modify their thinking and accepting something fresh and new. The student’s in the video hit on the politics of having a quality education, which is not just the academia, but a total focus on the lives of those we are teaching. We minimalize that self-reflection that allows the student to truly “spread their wings.”

    By stunting their growth intellectually and expressively, they turn to music and other ways to show us what we are missing. The video, Commencement Day, is one of those videos, but one among tens of thousands (or more) of the ways we tell the story the way we see it, and sometimes it is told in an angry manner. I think what got the teacher placed on administrative leave was not the cursing, but the message the song sends about our society collectively failing several generations of young people by continually placing old ideas ahead of the new ideas. By you being a realist, you get what is going on now, but those who suspended the teacher are living in the past and forcing others to see that the consequences of expressionism is an attack on their very lives. Wrong message to deliver to someone who is already pissed off at you, but that is what happens instead of dissecting the reason for presenting this kind of video to a class. I’m sure that if the principle who put this teacher on administrative spent some time talking to the students in his/her class, instead of waiting for the lawyers to find grounds on terminating him/her, he/she would find that over 90% of the students in the class identify with the thoughts behind the song.

    So, how are we to get the “stuffed shirts” to accept what is hard for them to? If we do it like here in EDM310, you give the students all of the opportunities to find their passions and engage them constantly with new technologies and surging ideas. Teachers like our professor, Dr. Strange, have been fighting to advance the way students are being taught for over 40 years, and it is catching on, but there are still many holdouts, and those are the ones keeping things archaic. It is great that you share your tools with others, because that is great networking and making a good PLN work for the students. Are you going to share the video with other teachers and ask them to show it, knowing what happened to teacher you mentioned? Will you show the video knowing that outcome? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but then, that is how a revolution starts: One little spark here and there and then the fire rages. Maybe this is one of those moments, and it will likely take much more to change the “Academy.” I really enjoyed reading your blog, because it got my brain to putting my keyboard to work. Oh, by the way, the “F” word is actually used in the video, between 47-51 seconds into the song, but I personally don’t mind, since I know it is being said artfully with expression as its catalyst. Keep up the great blogs.


  • #   Brittany on 04.13.14 at 3:50 pm     

    Hi my name is Brittany Sparks. I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am currently taking a course called EDM 31O and this week I am assigned to comment and summarize one of your blog post. I liked the song. I think it shows real meaning behind it. I would like to teach elementary students when I finish my degree. I do not think I could show them this video. An older class I could see though. Students need to be aware and like you said open to ideas to help improve the education system. This video could be a start to expressing what needs to be changed. Teachers can also find other ways to make a change. Thanks for posting!


  • #   Mr. Rice on 06.04.14 at 12:56 pm     

    Kevin,

    I wish I had the courage to attack the establishment and push the boundaries. Unfortunately, it is easy to talk big on a semi-anonymous blog on the internet.

    Our students need us to fight for them because their education is too short and it is over before they are politically savvy enough to work within the system to advocate for themselves.


  • #   Mr. Rice on 06.04.14 at 1:01 pm     

    Brittany,

    This song absolutely is inappropriate for elementary students. That being said, the underlying themes are not. Justice and standing up for oneself and others – those are values that all students can wrestle with. Allowing students to have meaningful choices about the direction and method of their education is an opportunity that can be provided to all students – the choices simply must be developmentally appropriate.


  • #   tiffany wake on 09.14.14 at 3:10 pm     

    Mr. Rice,
    To better ensure I got the entire message of the song, I looked up the lyrics. Just as fellow students have posted I believe the lyrics are not appropriate for younger ages, but the message is fit for all. I am also, an eternal optimist, always hoping for and going for the best. I believe attitudes can be contagious, and you never know if you are the one person to send a positive message someone’s way. Teachers sometimes must be a confidant, listening ear, mentor, and educator all at once. They hope to instill good morals and positivism in their students so they can have/make a better future. Tests and grades shouldn’t be the only way a students education is measured. Children should be learning for the sake of bettering the future, not for the sake of a 4.0 and scholarship.
    Tiffany Wake


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