That Time of Year Again

It’s time to celebrate reading and the First Amendment and subversive ideas all at once: Banned Books Week (September 24−October 1, 2011) starts tomorrow.

You can find web badges and a lovely brochure listing this year’s banned or challenged titles (many of them mystifying) at the Downloads page of the ALA Banned Books Week site.

Some of my favorite books are perennials on those lists.

We’re Insidious

The unschoolers are infiltrating again.

Consider the school music program described today in a New York Times editorial piece by David Bornstein:

Little Kids Rock has had remarkable success getting students excited about music class by putting instruments (mostly guitars) into their hands on day one, showing them simple techniques to get started playing quickly, and allowing them to play music that they love to listen to.

The program is controversial, of course—critics say that schools should be teaching more serious music, that letting kids just play around with pop music they like isn’t serious education.

But the program’s supporters sound like unschoolers—they’ve discovered that letting the kids get excited about music that interests them triggers far more:

It’s important to note that the vast majority of the program’s teachers — and its biggest supporters — are themselves classically trained music instructors, who also frequently teach orchestra, chorus or jazz or marching bands. A few of them wrote in to share their experiences with Little Kids Rock. MamfeMan (20) wrote that the program had “shaped the culture of my school, the mind-set of these students, and has been — without a doubt — the most inspirational part of my life.” Another teacher, who is based in Philadelphia and teaches fifth graders, (56) added that when “students who want to learn a certain song … go ahead and learn the chords, and practice till they ‘get it’’’ the belief in learning-through-practice carries over to other areas of school.

Almost makes me think there’s hope for conventional education. If this style of learning catches on so well in music, maybe it’ll spread to other subjects, too.