Luminous City: Childhood Falls

As with Storming Heaven, the song began with Pete. He had the wistful opening section, I wrote the key change/jam section and the lyrics… about as close to jazz fusion as we ever got, actually. This aspect was what appealed to Nolan, the guitarist after Pete, Josh, and Paula left, and it was a cross between him and Larry Carlton circa The Royal Scam that I envisioned as I performed the “guitar” solo. I also borrowed his acoustic guitar arpeggios during the choruses.

I’m pretty sure I would not write this lyric today. The initial impetus was observing two of my former girlfriend’s five children, both in accelerated learning curricula at the late grade school and early middle school level, coming home with backpacks weighed down and at least five or six hours’ worth of homework assigned each and every night. With all that, when were the kids going to have any time to go out and play with their friends in the neighborhood? It was as though someone somewhere in the school system had decided, “Hey, we’ve got to catch up, how did we fall so far behind the Asians and Europeans? Damn the cost, these kids need to work and make us proud.” Their childhood was falling before them and adulthood rearing its head at what we used to consider an abnormally young age.

Which brings me, not coincidentally, to the line about “Japs and Krauts”, over which I’ve caught shrapnel. I’m not going to plead a case here, or apologize for my potty mouth; I’m just going to tell you straight up that as a rule, a more, and a code, I do not refer to either nationality as pejoratively as that (I’m probably eine kleine Deutscher myself, but my great-uncle is guessing about all of that except for my being of Welsh descent). My point is that the kind of people who think that there is a quick fix to our education ills– a fix such as overburdening the best and brightest among our children– seem to me to be also the kind of people who would refer to other nationalities as dismissively. As with much of the criticism of Robert A Heinlein’s work, it’s generally a mistake to attribute the attitudes of his characters to those of the author.

Anyway, that was back then. About ten years later, during my first significant stretch of funemployment (ha, and ha) since I joined the ranks of IT support, I spent two years scraping for any kind of work to bring money into the house, and one of the jobs I found myself doing was babysitting teenagers, that is, substitute teaching, mostly on the high school level if I could help it. It mattered not whether I was in the inner city or in the comfy suburbs; wherever I went, I saw that children outside the accelerated programs seemed simply not as inclined to learn. So much for the attitude of Chaucer’s clerk: “And gladly wolde he lerne…”

I don’t know whether it’s that the teachers and administrators cannot or will not make things such that children and young adults want to learn, or that the kids themselves won’t do anything that isn’t entertaining and immediately gratifying to their constant need for sensory stimulation… but there’s a standoff in the classroom. Maybe most regular teachers don’t sense this, and my magpie-on-tourist view is skewed by the transitory nature of subbing, but it’s what I saw.

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