Star-Spangled Banner, Blues in Schools, and Other Music Lessons

One of my earlier idea’s for this week’s feature report was a call for educators to inform themselves and their students about the history of the Star Spangled Banner. This would provide some context for recent flaps around athletes standing, not standing, covering their hearts or not – and, for those familiar with Baltimore customs, shouting out the “O” or not. Teachers might include a few words about the 20th Century Chicago columnist Mike Royko, whose alter ego, Slats Grobnik, struggled humorously, over the decades, with if and how singing the anthem at sporting events related to patriotism.

ssb_lyricsSuch studies could start the school year with some intellectual rockets red glare, lighting the way for students to look more deeply into the background of current events and to seek broader perspectives on any issue before pronouncing on it. Resources below

But, we are heading into Labor Day Weekend. And, for those local to the District of Columbia, that means the 28th Annual DC Blues Society free music festival. So I also want to put in a plug for Blues in the Schools and related efforts.

This feature report appears near the top of the hour on the September 1 edition of We Act Radio’s Education Town Hall. Be sure to stay tuned for additional discussion with Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig —

Blues Lessons

Blues in the Schools says: “Through the study of blues traditions in any curriculum, educators can address educational issues like the color line, diversity, multi-culturalism, and interdisciplinary studies in a way that engages all aged students.” The Blues Society notes, in particular, that Blues is an opportunity to “give students deeper understanding of rural and urban African-American culture.”

TMTTR_coverIn addition, “Take Me to the River,” the 2014 documentary about an inter-generational exploration of the Memphis music scene, is now widely available for low cost. The film project includes a living history curriculum. Moreover, the fictional series, “The Get Down” provides a great opportunity to engage older students in exploring the intertwining of music and US history.

If you can be in DC this weekend, check out the musical and educational opportunities ALL AVAILABLE FOR FREE (rain or shine) at the DC Blues Society Festival, Carter Barron Ampitheater on 16th Street NW and/or connect with the DC Blues Society year-round.

As the Blues Society reminds us, helping students connect with music and its history is “an investment in the human spirit.”

Star-Spangled Banner Resources

Star-Spangled Banner Full Lyrics (PDF)

Some basics at American History Musuem

Earlier this summer from The Root. Includes very short documentary from Morgan State University students.

Gabby Douglas and debate over anthem (LA Times)

More from Snopes

Patriotism at the stadium — one of Mike Royko’s pieces centering around Slats Grobnik and the national anthem

“Athletes, Protest and Patriotism” at Teaching for Change

“Francis Scott Key Opposed ‘Land of the Free'” from Zinn Education Project


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