Nats 3Rs campaign

Nats 3R initiative.

This is really too much fun to ignore. When Chris Knox wrote a song for the Labour party before the last election I went searching the net to hear what it sounded like. It was what it was. But I scrolled down and read someone?s blog about it. From memory the sentiment was fairly non-committal re Chris?s effort but it went on to say that at least he?d done it and had been payed a small fee for doing so, then went on to add that National would probably struggle to find a songwriter willing to write one for them and that they?d probably make do with some old Neil Diamond cassettes. (I?m sorry I never book marked it and having gone back to find it I haven?t been able to?but my memory serves me well I think).
    With humour there is always a victim and it tends to pray on stereotypes. Clearly the blogger was playing on the perception of right wing politicians existing somewhere between the tasteless and the downright philistine when it comes to music at least and simultaneously inferred an almost innate left leaning in musicians. In the end the blogger?s prediction was pretty close to the mark, National?s propaganda DVD was underpinned with a studio hack?s version of Coldplay?s ?Clocks?. The media got a sniff of it, I was asked to give a musicological opinion (as I have done in many copyright disputes in the past), concurred, an article was printed condemning the piracy, the DVD removed from circulation. Nothing more happened as far as I know (though there are plenty of ?have they paid Coldplay yet? banter on the net still).
    Music isn?t worth anything. It is a pervasive view I think (having worked the door at gigs there always seemed to be some guy who came through from the public bar next door dumbfounded that music had to be paid for). It is one that stems, I think, from two things, one, the concept of work being inherently unpleasant (real work) and that people shouldn?t be paid for doing what they enjoy, and second the concept of music as a kind of idiot savant outpouring. Because most don?t know how it is made they seem to assume that we open our mouths and songs spontaneously come into being?there?s no work in that and therefore it is of no value. There?s nothing to show for music once it ceases either (the fact that food is of much the same transience seems to escape them however).
    And now this primary school three Rs campaign launch and the attendant axing of funding for the arts. Should anyone be surprised at National?s ambivalence to the arts, given their behavour with their promotional DVD? I can hear pleas for mitigation already but it really is quite simple?there are only three choices when it comes to answering charges and this may as well be laid directly at John Key?s door. With regard the Coldplay affair there can be no plea of innocence and therefore he can be guilty of one of three things. He might be so tone deaf as to not be able to tell the difference or similarity between one piece of music and another. No great sin, but it would at least explain a lot with regard to the aforementioned ambivalence (and if so afflicted one would expect such duties to be delegated?and therefore a guilty plea to incompetence should be entered). If not tone deaf, then he might be guilty of not checking his own propaganda before it went into the public domain. Again no great sin, though incompetence would again have to be the guilty plea here. If not incompetent then he was complicit in ?rhyming with? (you are welcome to infer a different verb) Coldplay.
    Music is maths, mentally calculated and physically projected through the medium of time, performed fractions, ratios and proportions (but then again Key, Tolley, et al probably wouldn?t know the Fibonacci series from a hole in the ground?and if you the reader doesn?t it isn?t your fault, but it is something we musicians have been known to mess with). I?m no education expert but I have read that they are aware of different ways of learning. Universities have vast arrays of assessment types to develop different skills but also to allow otherly-abled students to excel in areas of strength (see the link below for further acknowledgment of this).
    Clearly however this administration can only see maths as a pathway to a career in accountancy. One could be cynical and assert that they have no interest in fostering young musicians who will grow into mature ones that (as the above-mentioned blogger inferred) won?t vote for them. It won?t work of course. As a primary school pupil in the 60s the 3Rs were all the rage. I excelled in maths and solved everything they put in front of me such that in my first year they had me sitting in with the class four years ahead of me to keep me challenged. I?m not skiting, merely drawing attention to the fact I didn?t go on to be an accountant. I hope the government succeeds in raising numeracy and literacy with its new campaign. It will be fun in fifteen years time to see the Nats scratching their heads saying, ?where did all these bloody musicians come from? And why won?t they vote for us??

For an alternative view on education and where it should be heading I?m indebted to John Egenes for passing this on to me. Takes about twenty minutes to view but is both sobering and pricelessly funny: Ken Robinsons TED Talk  

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