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Friday, May 6, 2016

Gray Matters: Unanswered questions

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An interesting thing took place here one recent afternoon. Our innovative activities director had organized a Sing-Along.

About fifteen of us who like to vocalize gathered in the performance hall. The men out-numbered the women, and it seemed to me that their voices had aged better than ours.

I don't know if that is always the case or if it is just true here. The director had gotten a young teen-aged pianist to come play for us.

The song sheets we were given had only the lyrics printed on them so our leader and the accompanist had some problems locating the music that fit the words.

When they got things straightened out we would swing into those Golden Oldies and thoroughly enjoy ourselves. Actually, several times while they were sorting things through, one of the talented fellows would strike up the melody, properly pitched and timed, and we would all join in a fine a capella rendition. Well, at least it sounded fine to us!

In time, however, the surprise of the afternoon was revealed. It developed that our young pianist was not familiar with any of the songs we were singing. That struck me as an astonishing generation gap.

Perhaps I should say 'gaps' for she was nearer the age of our grandchildren than our children. But how did that happen? Many of the songs, 'Yankee Doodle, Clementine' and the like, had been around multiple generations before ours. When had those favorites been totally dropped from usage?

It's a relatively light-hearted matter but I think it still tells something about the reduction of the amount of our history that is being taught in many of our public schools. It's a shame that our young people seem to have lost so much of those vital connections with our country's heritage.

These ponderings lead me, again, to the matter of the education system. I expect I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but it is something about which we must all be vitally concerned. The debate has resurfaced on whether public schools should be regulated by national standards, state standards or local boards and parents.

Thinking folks I visit with seem to agree that parents, in conjunction with local administrators, are the ones on which the responsibility should rest.

But then we are faced with the problem of parents who haven't the time or the interest to determine just what the needs are, let alone to come up with the best means of addressing them.

And so, the vicious cycle goes on. Yes, I have wandered far from my original concern, but I think you see the interconnection.

It behooves us all to inform ourselves and do what we can to get these matters under control.