My husband and I looked on as a YouTuber live-streams a session in his home studio. The session included the YouTuber alone playing various pop culture jams with his own spin using very expensive music production equipment and software. As he played he accepted requests in real time from his fans and onlookers in the comments, many of which attempted to stump him with their request. When he was stumped he turned to Spotify for assistance.
One user chats out “Star Spangled Banner”. The YouTuber pauses for a bit. His eyes glance upward as he searches for the key and melody of the national anthem...
He begins to play with the confidence one has in spelling their own name to a stranger. But as soon as I heard the first two notes I knew right away that this was not Francis Scott Key’s timeless hit. He was playing Amazing Grace. My husband and I turned to each other in horror. Amazing-freaking-Grace... the horror washed over me not just because of the song’s very racist and questionable foundation and inspiration (the guy who wrote the song was a slave ship captain); it wasn’t even the absurd idea this country continues to promote that white Christianity is the only true patriotism and pure Americanism. The most shocking and disturbing observation was how long it took for people in the comments to recognize that the song being played was in fact NOT The Star Spangled Banner.
My mind immediately began to race. When did schools stop teaching “patriotic songs” like The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and My Country ‘Tis of Thee? I recall learning about these songs in music class and social studies in elementary school. In music we sang them and in social studies we analyzed the words (on an elementary school level). My own kids aren’t learning this, in fact I had to teach them these songs. This means generations after me don’t know what these songs are and what they’re about. This is the lore that keeps a country going. These are the pieces that keep a country connected, something that taken for granted can be seen as a contributor to the crumbling of our democracy that so many give outcry for.
But most importantly, those students that miss out become the people in the comments. These are the anonymous agents that unwittingly allow misinformation to live, no thrive. And because the infection is so innocent or easily admissible as a human mistake (one in which we are all capable of making) I’m not certain how we as a society can stop its cancerous spread.
Is school testing this pervasive that gutting curriculum for standardized achievement to blame? Is ignorance truly bliss? Is the internet so vast that we assume people will find it on their own? I’m not sure. One thing is certain, we must equip people with the confidence to speak up on line. We got through one-third of the innocuously played Amazing Grace before the comments began to blow up with “dude that’s Amazing Grace”, “amazing grace LOL.” “Aw. Amazing Grace”... when one person spoke up, others felt empowered to speak. But it took one-third of the song for folks to either figure it out or muster up the courage, and the chat wasn’t silent during that first part of the song. People were fully engaged and enjoying their misinformation.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.