Jules’s Jukebox: School Songs

Tomorrow I return to the school. For three weeks. These three weeks are both the longest and the shortest weeks of the first semester for teachers–longest because students will NOT be terribly focused, shortest because they are exceptionally busy weeks trying to finish up everything known to man before the year’s end.

So in honor of my colleagues fighting through the next three weeks, I bring you the School Songs playlist.

School songs tend to fall in four categories:

  • school/teacher is good
  • school/teacher is bad
  • teacher/students relations
  • summer vacation/graduation

School/teacher is good songs promote that school is something of which to be proud. Consider “Be True to Your School” by the Beach Boys and most schools’ fight songs or school chants. These songs, like my own alma mater’s songs, are designed to be a source of pride. My university’s “Boomer Sooner” and “Chant” (often referred to by the last line “live on university”) are case in point. It’s hard to attend a function with other OU alum and not break into a chorus of being “Sooner born and Sooner bred” or even breaking into the state song, “Oklahoma!” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. A few songs sound more like PSAs promoting the importance of an education, James Brown’s “Don’t Be a Drop-Out” , Brenda Holloway’s “Play It Cool, Stay In School,” and Frankie Avalon singing “Beauty School Drop Out” from the movie Grease. At least .38 Special has teachers’ backs in their song “Teacher Teacher” (though the song was the theme song of the Nick Nolte movie Teachers which was generally critical of public schools and teachers unions).

School/teacher is good songs are fewer and further between than school/teacher is bad songs. Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, pt. 2” rails against the mind-numbing, rigid, and industrial nature of school with lines like “We don’t need no thought control,” and “No dark sarcasm in the classroom”–much like Rush’s “Subdivisions” bemoaning to “conform or be cast out.” Other songs, like “Charlie Brown” by the Coasters and “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room” by Brownsville Station (later covered by Motley Crüe), take lighthearted approaches at clowning (or anything other than studying) in schools being more memorable than the learning that should be going on.

Songs focused on teacher/student relations are the ones that creep me out the most. As a veteran teacher, the thought of a student humming Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” is equally bad to any teacher pulling a Humbert Humbert as in the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”  or when ABBA brags about “When I Kissed the Teacher.” Teachers are often portrayed as uncaring, mean, or out for sex (or even violent as in Eminem’s “Brain Damage”). Needless to say, I have a hard time with that pop culture portrayal of my profession. But I regretfully admit to still liking many of these songs.  At least songs that are student to student are generic love songs, but the whole teacher/student vibe is just wrong on every front.

Lastly, we have the fun summer/school’s out/graduation songs. Some of these are weepy (like Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever)”) , but most talk smack at schools (think Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”) and celebrate that school is out for summer vacation.

But today’s Jukebox will highlight one song that breaks the mold school is good mold and another that fits the school is bad in a lighthearted way mold.

“Word Crimes” by Weird Al Yankovic–the English teacher in me loves Weird Al’s satiric take on “Blurred Lines.”

“Rock & Roll High School” by the Ramones–“fun. fun.”

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