I wonder if this is a gross misuse of music and an instance of the exploitation of our youth in the United States, for the purposes of advancing narrow political interests and a policy of militarism.

 

I heard this story, and the accompanying music on NPR just yesterday.

 

The headline was:

 

GOP Presidential Hopeful Rand Paul Clashes With Media

 

The musicians who play in this clip belong to the:

 

West Ashley High School Band.

 

http://www.npr.org/2015/04/10/398704494/gop-presidential-candidate-rand-paul-clashes-with-media

 

In short, I wonder why a public high school band is playing at a function for a political candidate, why this is being done "in front of air craft carrier," and why students at a public high school should be promoting militarism, imperialism, interventionism and warmongering in this way. 

 

Perhaps others can comment, and tell me whether this is another instance of the gross misuse of music and aspiring musicians for a narrow and misguided political agenda.

 

Parts the text of the radio story underlined below.

 

 

 

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

 

This week, we've also seen political confrontations caught on video. Republican Sen. Rand Paul clashed with TV reporters who asked about some of his shifting positions, including positions on national security. Some Republicans have criticized the presidential candidate as an isolationist. Yesterday, Sen. Paul made a speech in South Carolina in front of an aircraft carrier. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea was there.

 

 

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The crowd of a few hundred arrived at Patriots Point near Charleston Harbor in shirt sleeves and summer dresses. In the noon-hour sunshine, there was even some seersucker. And there was pre-speech entertainment by the West Ashley High School marching band  …

 

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND)

GONYEA: But the big set piece was the USS Yorktown, sitting off in the distance and now a museum and tourist attraction. Some in the audience wore ball caps noting past military service in Vietnam or Iraq. Sen. Paul said as commander in chief, his desire for peace would not be mistaken for passivity.

 

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

 

SENATOR RAND PAUL: The world should not mistake our reluctance for war for inaction. And if war should prove unavoidable, America will fight with overwhelming force, and we will not relent until victory is ours.

 

 

(APPLAUSE)

 

[My comment:  What "reluctance for war???!!!"  We are at war right now in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and quite a few more countries, with drone strikes, "covert ops," and an all time record high military involvement and increasing budgets, increasing the numbers of bases we have around the world! Most Republicans say we are not involved in ENOUGH WARS, and would like to go to war in Iran as well, and they would like to USE MUSIC TO PROMOTE WAR as much as possible, as is being done at this rally. ]

 

 

GONYEA: The aircraft carrier was there to symbolize Paul's commitment to a strong military, but foreign policy is a tricky issue for him. His father, Ron Paul, the former congressman and three-time presidential candidate, was a loud critic of what he saw as a U.S. too eager to deploy military force. Rand Paul campaigned for his father back then. But as a U.S. senator, he's distanced himself from some of his dad's views and from some of his own past statements.

 

 

 

 

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  • As a person who played in high school bands in sung in high school choirs I have first hand experience with this very thing. I went to a high school in Killeen Texas, which, as many people know, is home to Ft. Hood; the largest military base in the country. During president's first term in office, he visited Ft. Hood and our show choir sung for the event. 

    Now I know at the time, not everyone in the show choir agreed with President Bush's policies at all, in fact about half of them really didnt. But they were none the less excited to go, because of the exposure aspect. 

    Politicians use public school music ensembles, public school music ensembles use politicians. Politicians want to look down to earth and of the people so using a public school music ensemble at the places they visit gives them those points with voters. Public school music ensembles use these opportunities to give their students more performing opportunities as well as giving their ensemble the national exposure that many high school musicians will never get in their entire life. Its a give or take situation. 

    One must also remember, and ensemble can decline this. The district my high school was in had three other high schools who wanted to be there. Being chosen to sing at a political event is also a prestige thing as well. Whether or not a politician is promoting militarism, imperialism, interventionism and warmongering is debatable. What is militarism to one person is protecting freedom to another, what is warmongering to one person is spreading democracy to another. Its all a matter of perspective, and the musicians are aware of this, even in high school. We have had many of a debate on the bus back in my high school band and choir days about this. However, all that goes to the wayside because this opportunity is too great to pass up. 

    It is often the only chance a high school music ensemble has to prove to the world that great things are happening in the public schools musically and that they are worth saving. Its the only chance to be proud of the work we did as musicians in high school. And when you come from a school that was a bad as mine (one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and violence with a extremely high drop out rate) music was the only thing we really had to be proud of. At that moment, all the political agenda and back and forth go out the window. All that matters then for the high school musicians is the music. 

  • "What is militarism to one person is protecting freedom to another, what is warmongering to one person is spreading democracy to another."

    Here are some poll results on that question.

     

    As you can see, the majority of Americans believe the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq were "not worth it."

    This is in spite of the fact that the mainstream media has bombarded the people with pro-war propaganda, and numerous justifications for war.

    The few figures on TV (like Phil Donahue) who opposed the war were taken off the air and had their shows cancelled for their opposition.

    Even so, people in the US have concluded that these wars were not worthwhile, probably because they cost Trillions of Dollars and made Iraq and Afghanistan MORE UNSTABLE.  Thousands of US lives were thrown away for nothing, and hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims were killed, only to make the US even more hated that it has been in the past by people in Third World countries.

    If the US invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are not examples of "militarism," then I don't know what is.  Has any nation sent its armies abroad to kill as many people as the US has since World War II?

    Here is what the polls say,

    "All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not?"

     

     

     

    12/11-14/14

    38 %(Worth it)

    56% (Not worth it)

     

     

     

     

    -------

     

    "Now, thinking about Iraq: When it comes to Iraq, do you think the war was worth it or not worth it?"

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Worth it

    Not

    worth it

     

     

     

     

     

    %

    %

     

     

     

     

    10/8-12/14

    26

    66

     

     

     

     

     

  • The thing is, none of this matters to a high school music ensemble. We were all aware of how polarizing this was. How people felt about the war. Most of the students in our high school (about 90% of them) came from military families with many of them having parents overseas in war zones. We were well verse in public opinion on this subject. But thats not what you asked in this topic. 
    The question of this thread really boils down to; despite political agendas, is it worth it for public school music ensembles to perform at political events? And the answer for many schools is yes. 

    This is true for any up and coming politicians that comes to town. We didnt only sing and play for presidents, we performed at events like the military ball, elections runs for county comptroller, mayor elections, any event that would boost our presence in the community and nationally. 

    As I said, all politics and polls don't matter when it comes to the music public schools try to defend. 


    Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

    "What is militarism to one person is protecting freedom to another, what is warmongering to one person is spreading democracy to another."

    Here are some poll results on that question.

     

    As you can see, the majority of Americans believe the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq were "not worth it."

    This is in spite of the fact that the mainstream media has bombarded the people with pro-war propaganda, and numerous justifications for war.

    The few figures on TV (like Phil Donahue) who opposed the war were taken off the air and had their shows cancelled for their opposition.

    Even so, people in the US have concluded that these wars were not worthwhile, probably because they cost Trillions of Dollars and made Iraq and Afghanistan MORE UNSTABLE.  Thousands of US lives were thrown away for nothing, and hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims were killed, only to make the US even more hated that it has been in the past by people in Third World countries.

    If the US invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are not examples of "militarism," then I don't know what is.  Has any nation sent its armies abroad to kill as many people as the US has since World War II?

    Here is what the polls say,

    "All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not?"

     

     

     

    12/11-14/14

    38 %(Worth it)

    56% (Not worth it)

     

     

     

     

    -------

     

    "Now, thinking about Iraq: When it comes to Iraq, do you think the war was worth it or not worth it?"

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Worth it

    Not

    worth it

     

     

     

     

     

    %

    %

     

     

     

     

    10/8-12/14

    26

    66

     

     

     

     

     

    Music, Warmongering and High School Bands
    I wonder if this is a gross misuse of music and an instance of the exploitation of our youth in the United States, for the purposes of advancing narr…
  • "The thing is, none of this matters to a high school music ensemble."

     

    Since a high school music ensemble is not a person, I don't know what it means to say, "none of this matters to a high school ensemble." It will probably matter to many individuals who are members of music ensembles.  I think children who belonged to high school musical ensembles in Iraq, who have parents or brothers and sisters killed by the US military may have strong opinions on the subject.  However, our media does not tend to frame the issue in those terms. 

     

    The issue of whether or not music in the US should be used to promote war, imperialism and military aggression will matter, and does matter to society at large, and to the world; and different people will have different perspectives on the matter.  In any case, the question I am posing is not simply whether "it matters" to members of any ensemble.  I am asking, among other things, why a PUBLIC institution in the US, such as a high school, and its band members, are being exploited for blatantly militaristic purposes.  And I add the question, why was this done in the Rand Paul case mentioned above, when it is crystal clear that the vast majority of the American public believes the major "recent wars" in Afghanistan and Iraq were "not worth it?"

     

    Consider the point you made earlier, "Politicians use public school music ensembles, public school music ensembles use politicians."  That seems to imply a mutual benefit, with equal give and take.  Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the higher-ups in a society like that of the US (virtually geared for perpetual war) dictate the terms for "ceremonies" and "social occasions," and the band directors usually just fall in line? 

     

    What do you think would happen if a high school band director today tried to do a musical revival of Jane Fonda's and Donald Sutherland's show "F.T.A," (Free the Army—or "Fuck the Army"), or something similar, which was anti-war?  It was extremely popular in its day, especially among soldiers and the families of soldiers, and it was usually done in close proximity to large military bases.

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSQJqBzyJbI

     

    Do you think the band director could set the terms, organize the social setting and create an occasion for such a performance from the "bottom up?" Could he or she do this when the people "at the top" are in bed with the military industrial complex, the corporations, the "consent-manufacturing" media and those who control society's profit making ventures?

     

    Could we have high school ensembles perform songs with lyrics like,

     

    Nothing could be finer

    Than to be in Indochina

    Making mo … ney …  (?)

     

     

    Let us consider,

     

    "We were all aware of how polarizing this was. How people felt about the war. Most of the students in our high school (about 90% of them) came from military families with many of them having parents overseas in war zones. We were well versed in public opinion on this subject. But that's not what you asked in this topic."

     

    Are we talking about "polarization" or about exploitation?  I was talking about the latter.  In a community where the military has a large presence or influence (and by "the military," I mean, the brass, and large numbers whose job it is to support war, to participate in war, and to promote it), then clearly the problem of exploitation is even worse.  I also attended high school in such a community, where bands, football games and "pep rallies" were largely used as props for war promotion and the inculcation of "groupthink."   But I am not simply talking about where one person or another might have grown up, or what the high school band was like in this or that town.  I am talking about a nationwide phenomenon, of which this Rand Paul appearance is just the latest instance.

     

     

    "The question of this thread really boils down to; despite political agendas, is it worth it for public school music ensembles to perform at political events?"

     

    I don't think that is the question at all.  I didn't ask that question, and I think that particular question is not at all relevant to the issue I am bringing up.  My question has to do with WHY, in a supposedly democratic society, with the vast majority of the people seeing those two large wars as being "not worth it," are public educational resources and public high school students being turned into props for militarism?

     

    We have the statement,

     

    "We didn't only sing and play for presidents, we performed at events like the military ball, elections runs for county comptroller, mayor elections, any event that would boost our presence in the community and nationally."

     

    But if the issue were simply about "boosting the presence" of any musical ensemble, then we would have to ask how often the high school bands perform at anti-war rallies, anti-recruitment protests, and ceremonies where veterans throw their medals into the trash?  If they did, that would surely "boost" their presence even more.  But I have not heard of a case where that has happened in the US.  The decision where to perform must have to do with something other than "boosting presence."

     

    I am looking forward to the day when we have a leadership that acts as the Guatemalan government recently did.  I am looking forward to the day when high school bands are prohibited from participating in any kind of march, performance or ceremony that smacks of war and militarism. 

     

     

    "As I said, all politics and polls don't matter when it comes to the music public schools try to defend."

     

    Politics must matter, or else the high school band would be just as likely to perform at peace rally as at a "candidate's event" where Rand Paul proclaims his dedication to the military industrial complex, so that the Republican overseers can see that he has fallen into line.  

     

    Of course, there are good uses for band music, in connection with the issue of the military, as in this youtube video, a mock recruitment ad, which is called "An Army of None," and which begins with the words,

     

    "There's dead and there's army dead; it's about more than killing innocent people, it's about brutalizing nations.  It's not just about the bombs, it's about oil …"

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=px6MIDBd_cQ&list=PLC2208F8C5CB4...

     

     

  • Never mind musical events, if any lying warmonger (such as Tony Blair) walked into my school, I would walk straight out.

    More people need to make a stand.

    The question is above is very well put.

    Would a high school band ever perform at an anti-war rally? And if not, why not?

  • See you're trying to compare to radically different events. High school music ensembles would probably play at peace if music from the classical world was a feature there. High school ensembles have played for non-wa high school ensembles have played for figures that promote peace in that are antiwar in the past and currently.
    How a high school ensemble chooses what they play is based on a number of factors. The event needs to be somewhat neutral and safe. I have been to a protest rally against Texas abortion laws and those were not environment for high school. Unlike you very well organized political rally the antiabortion protesters was very gorilla style it's organization and drew tons of counter protest that got out of hand a few times. At the end of the day the event has to be very mainstream for public high school to attend. It cannot be too left or too right.
    Another factor is exposure. Peace rallies in antiwar protest are not national news items. They are also very singular focused events. They usually don't have room for music at them. Political rallies make room to feature high school ensembles, they also reach out more than people who organize peace rallies.
    That is not to say the high school only play the political events. When a well organize figure of the antiwar movement or a peacemaker comes into town actually reaches out to ensembles they will play there. I've known high school ensembles to play prove that you're like my Angelou, the Dahli lama, figures of the civil rights movement, and many more because they reached out to them. You can't expect a high school ensemble to volunteer, they need to be invited and featured. Antiwar demonstrations in peace protest are not reaching out to them, which is unfortunate.
  • Thank you, Adrian for your comments.

     

    Let's directly address the question, "Would a high school band ever perform at an anti-war rally? And if not, why not?"

     

    I have used the search engine to try to find evidence of any high school band in the US performing at an anti-war rally.  So far, I have found nothing.  It appears, through the courts, that students in the US have barely won the right to wear clothes that express anti-war sentiments.  They can do so only as long as such expressions "do not disrupt discipline."  

     

    I know very well that high school teachers, band directors or employees of the public school system do NOT even have the same rights to freedom of expression as students do, with regard to content.  No court has ever vindicated the free speech rights of teachers in the US; rather the reverse.  Teachers, as employees, are being "paid for their speech," therefore the principals and school directors have the right to fire them if they don't like the views they are expressing.  So say the courts. 

     

    Any band director in the US who tried to arrange a "pro-peace" concert or similar performance would likely be fired or discouraged well before the organization of such an event even began. People in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada can tell us whether the laws there are more or less strict on the issue.

     

    We can see here in the US a gross institutional hypocrisy, when a high school band performs at a rally for politician Rand Paul, while expressing pro-war, even highly militaristic sentiments in front of an aircraft carrier as a prop.

     

    Shame on the officials who organized such a gross misuse of public resources.  Why should public high school students be exploited for propagandistic purposes?  I can't think of any good excuse for this.

     

    If the high school students who participated in this, or the teachers, saw any photos of the many hundreds of thousands children killed by US military action and foreign policy decisions, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and around the world during the past several decades, I wonder how they would feel about it? 

     

     

  • In your research did you find if any of the organizers reached out to a local high school? I know of no peace or anti-war organization coming up to any of the band directors or choir directors I know asking if their ensembles would play at their event. 
    Y'all are only seeing the end result and jumping to conclusions as to how it got to that point. High schools for the most part are allowed to talk freely and express opinions that are anti-war. We only hear about the times when administration goes over board when a war fanatic parent complains. 

    I come from a family of people in secondary education with a mother who is an administrator. Majority of public schools would not have a problem with their kids playing at an anti-war rally, if one was organized to include them and was a safe place for them to be. 


    Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

    Thank you, Adrian for your comments.

     

    Let's directly address the question, "Would a high school band ever perform at an anti-war rally? And if not, why not?"

     

    I have used the search engine to try to find evidence of any high school band in the US performing at an anti-war rally.  So far, I have found nothing.  It appears, through the courts, that students in the US have barely won the right to wear clothes that express anti-war sentiments.  They can do so only as long as such expressions "do not disrupt discipline."  

     

    I know very well that high school teachers, band directors or employees of the public school system do NOT even have the same rights to freedom of expression as students do, with regard to content.  No court has ever vindicated the free speech rights of teachers in the US; rather the reverse.  Teachers, as employees, are being "paid for their speech," therefore the principals and school directors have the right to fire them if they don't like the views they are expressing.  So say the courts. 

     

    Any band director in the US who tried to arrange a "pro-peace" concert or similar performance would likely be fired or discouraged well before the organization of such an event even began. People in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada can tell us whether the laws there are more or less strict on the issue.

     

    We can see here in the US a gross institutional hypocrisy, when a high school band performs at a rally for politician Rand Paul, while expressing pro-war, even highly militaristic sentiments in front of an aircraft carrier as a prop.

     

    Shame on the officials who organized such a gross misuse of public resources.  Why should public high school students be exploited for propagandistic purposes?  I can't think of any good excuse for this.

     

    If the high school students who participated in this, or the teachers, saw any photos of the many hundreds of thousands children killed by US military action and foreign policy decisions, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and around the world during the past several decades, I wonder how they would feel about it? 

     

     

    Music, Warmongering and High School Bands
    I wonder if this is a gross misuse of music and an instance of the exploitation of our youth in the United States, for the purposes of advancing narr…
  • I personally know of cases where teachers have been fired for expressing anti-war sentiments, or even refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance.  According to court rulings, students are protected in their right to refuse to recite the pledge, but teachers are not so protected.  I know a case where a teacher was castigated for allowing students to display artwork which was anti-war, during the US military invasion and occupation of Iraq.  This was not even in a district where there was a base or a sizeable military presence.

     

    "In your research did you find if any of the organizers reached out to a local high school? I know of no peace or anti-war organization coming up to any of the band directors or choir directors I know asking if their ensembles would play at their event."

     

    I think if there were a single high school band director or choir director who presented any kind of anti-war program, or set of musical compositions which were anti-war, there would be some evidence of it.  I can't find a single piece of evidence.  I did find one news item where high profile singer Bruce Springfield was savaged for performing one song at a Veteran's gathering which had one sentence in it that could be interpreted as "anti-war."  That gives you some of idea of the climate in this country, and the "tolerance" that authorities and the corporate controlled media have for dissent.

     

    "Y'all are only seeing the end result and jumping to conclusions as to how it got to that point. High schools for the most part are allowed to talk freely and express opinions that are anti-war."

     

    I think you may be drawing an unwarranted conclusion.  I do not "only see the end result."  I also have relatives and friends who teach in public high schools, and know the situation in many schools first hand.   I don't know what it means to say, "high schools are allowed to talk freely."   Schools are composed of many individuals.  In certain situations, student's free speech rights are protected, and the courts have upheld student's rights to free expression.   But if you know the laws, and have studied the court verdicts, you are aware that teachers in public high schools do not have guaranteed free speech rights, because their speech is "paid for," and they are paid for saying what they are told to say. That's what the courts have ruled so far. They are "government servants." When they go "out of bounds," criticize military interventions or the warmongering policies of the government, they are quickly brought into line. Even the ACLU talks about teachers only having free speech rights when they are "not on the job," or no longer on school grounds.   For a high school band teacher or choral director to organize any sort of "anti-war" concert would appear to be out of the question. I don't know of a single instance.  If you can find any example of such, I would love to hear about it.

     

    "Majority of public schools would not have a problem with their kids playing at an anti-war rally …"

     

    Here is an article citing cases where teachers have been fired or disciplined simply for expressing ideas that were "against the grain," or anti-war.

     

    http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2011/02/teachers-fired-for-bumper-...

     

    If it's so easy for a high school band director to express anti-war sentiments through a choice of songs or music, I think there would be at least one story about such a case.

     

    We have seen how easily Rand Paul was able to enlist a high school band for pro-war propaganda purposes.   I have seen countless events in the US, in high schools and even in colleges and universities, where support for war is expressed.  I have yet to see a high school event for the community, a public or after school event—sponsored by school authorities—where PEACE was supported and war was questioned.  Can anyone cite one example? 

     

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  • The four years I was in high school I never said the pledge, because I was in band at the time and we didnt have time. Which leads me to the two things I want to address right now. I will address more later. 

    Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

     I think if there were a single high school band director or choir director who presented any kind of anti-war program, or set of musical compositions which were anti-war, there would be some evidence of it.  I can't find a single piece of evidence. 

     The thing is, high schools to "present" music to events, nor do they design programs with messages in mind, especially in high school. Most of the music they are learning are either for competition, natural music for their annual concert program, or marching band music. When they are asked by a politician to play music of some kind it will most likely be the Star Spangled Banner, a piece of music they will already be familiar with. Their isn't a whole, if any, anti-war music for band and choir that meant for high school and young performers, that fits into their already existing calendar, and that is not too polarizing. 

    Additionally, public schools ensembles don't seek out extra events like anti-war rallies. They don't even seek out political rallies, because the logistics involved require to much to pursue without justifiable reasons. It takes a lot of work to move 300+ students and their instruments around. Most politicians go to them and their turf because they know this fact while most anti-war rallies are located in very visible but distant places from high schools. 


    Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

    We have seen how easily Rand Paul was able to enlist a high school band for pro-war propaganda purposes.   I have seen countless events in the US, in high schools and even in colleges and universities, where support for war is expressed.  I have yet to see a high school event for the community, a public or after school event—sponsored by school authorities—where PEACE was supported and war was questioned.  Can anyone cite one example? 

    Rand Paul was able to enlist a high school so easily because he has a team of people who understand the limitations of what a high school can and cannot do. Reading that article you posted, it said the high school played some Katy Perry. I can almost certainly guarantee that that high school already knew the music because they probably were playing it all fall semester during the football games. They probably also offered to help pay for the band to travel to the event. These are things that most anti-war event organizers don't do. Most anti-war organizers also don't consider classical music or public school music as part of their message. We do here because we are musicians, but outside of here most in the anti-war community do not think a high school band furthers their message as much as pro-war politicians do. 

    There is some truth behind what you say about schools being censored but, this case of high school bands playing at political rallies of pro-war politicians is also a two way street. The problem isn't just politicians using students to promote their propaganda, its also anti-war activist who don't reach out to young musicians or anti-war composers not writing music for young musicians. 

    Music, Warmongering and High School Bands
    I wonder if this is a gross misuse of music and an instance of the exploitation of our youth in the United States, for the purposes of advancing narr…
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