Christmas Break Begins!

Well, here it is—the week of Christmas, and the beginning of my glorious, two-week Christmas break.  If this blog post feels a bit like I’m rubbing in readers’ faces the bloated excess of education’s vacation time, my apologies.  I will note, though, that if you spent hours everyday as a surrogate parent to other people’s children, you, too, would want two weeks off at Christmas.

Indeed, I would argue that more professions deserve more time off at Christmastime.  Naturally, I realize that many folks save up their hard-earned vacation days to do just that:  enjoy a week or so with their families by the yule log, sipping eggnog and hot cocoa in their festive Cosby sweaters.  What I’m advocating for, though, is a widespread cultural movement—maybe even to the point of declaring some federal holidays—in the days leading up to and/or immediately after Christmas.  It always blows my mind when people work a full day—even a measly half-day—on Christmas Eve.

Read More »

Singing Christmas Carols with Kids

Today is Bandcamp Friday, which means if you purchase my music on Bandcamp, Bandcamp doesn’t take their usual 15% commission.  You can pick up my entire discography for $15.75—seven total releases, including the popular Contest Winner – EP.  If you want to enjoy some good tunes and support an independent musician, today is a great day to do so.  You can also support me directly with a tip.

It’s that time of year when Christmas music dominates the airwaves and our collective consciousness.  It’s always a tad irksome to me how folks will complain about Christmas music during the Christmas season.  Of course you’re going to hear Mariah Carey every fifteen minutes—it comes with the territory.  Naturally, let’s at least get through Halloween (and, preferably, Thanksgiving Day), but at least make an attempt at getting into the Christmas spirit.

Last year I wrote extensively about Christmas carols.  Indeed, one of my many unfinished projects is to compile a small book containing the stories of some of our most cherished carols (I want to write a similar book about hymns, too).  I play and sing a lot of carols this time of year:  I’m a music teacher.  Perennial favorites—and the selections my classes are currently playing—are “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Holy Night.”

Read More »

The Joy of Music

One of the greatest joys in life is music.  Regular readers will know that I love musicplaying it, writing it, singing it, arranging it, analyzing it, launching it into space, etc.  As an art form, I believe music is uniquely suited to communicating ideas and beauty across time, space, and cultures.  It can be intensely nationalistic, yet still universal.

We’re back to distance learning today after a positive case of The Virus, and since it’s the day before Thanksgiving Break—historically the biggest blow-off day of the school year—my administration decided to play it safe and declare today a distance learning day.  As such, I took the assignment derived from The Story of 100 Great Composers and ported it to my high school music classes.  Those classes will share about their composers today.

Read More »

SubscribeStar Saturday: Live Remote Learning Rehearsal Day 2

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Yesterday my school ran its second Live Remote Learning Rehearsal Day.  We have actually done really well with keeping cases low—almost non-existent.  Nevertheless, our administration is taking a proactive approach by testing out remote learning in various scenarios in the event we need to go fully online.

Overall, the day seemed to go smoothly, at least on my end.  The difference this time was that instead of faculty teaching from school with students at home, faculty were also allowed to stay home.  That made the experience much more like our transition to distance learning back in March.

I’m enjoying some time with my niece and nephews this morning, so the rest of this post will be completed a bit later today.  Thank you, subscribers, once again for your patience.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Friday Morning Reading: The Story of One Hundred Great Composers

Today my school is doing its second Live Remote Learning Rehearsal days.  These are days for us to test out remote learning in the event The Virus necessitates returning to distance learning full-timeLast time teachers tuned in from home while teachers were on-campus.  This time, both teachers and students are able to work from home, so I’ve been enjoying a more leisurely morning.

Indeed, I just wrapped up my first morning class of the day, a section of Middle School Music.  The students in that section wrote brief, rough draft biographies of renowned composers, and after giving them feedback in-class yesterday, they presented on their composers this morning.  It was a good lesson for digital learning, as it required their active participation for the bulk of the class, and they all did quite well.

I’ve assigned composer biographies in music courses for years, but what inspired the assignment this time around was the rediscovery of a charming little book I keep on a small end table in my den:  Helen L. Kaufmann’s The Story of One Hundred Great Composers.  Published in 1943, the book is a tiny, pocket-sized digest of two-to-three-page entries—arranged chronologically—of composers from the sixteenth century forward.

Read More »

Memorable Monday: Happy Columbus Day!

I’m back from my third trip to Universal Studios this year, and I’m worn out.  Having nonstop fun in the central Florida sun for three days straight really takes it out of me—that, and driving nearly fourteen hours round trip.  I’ll be posting a delayed SubscribeStar post about the trip for subscribers later this evening, after taking a much-needed nap.

Today is Columbus Day, and outside of banks and the postal service, I’m one of the few people who doesn’t have to work today.  I’m thankful for that, and to Columbus for making his historic voyages to the New World.

The attempts of cancel culture to rewrite history have only intensified since I wrote this post one year ago.  The trend is heading into extreme territory, in which we absurdly demand people living four hundred years ago to have had the foresight to think and believe the way we do in 2020.  We pillory them and destroy their statues if they failed to genuflect properly.

The world in 1492 was a brutal place, especially in the New World.  The myth of the “noble savage” was just that—a myth.  The Native Americans were a vastly diverse array of tribes and confederations, often intensely at war with one another.  That doesn’t excuse some of the abuse they did receive at the hands of Europeans and, later, Americans, but it should dispel this notion that white people cruelly destroyed peaceful Earth worshippers.

That it doesn’t is a testament to the strength of progressive indoctrination in our schools.  We don’t name football teams, towns, and military weaponry after Native Americans because they were pagan hippies; we do so because we fought them for hundreds of years and admire their tenacity and warrior-spirit.  It’s the hard-won respect one has for a worthy opponent, even a defeated one.

So, I’ll repeat my call to preserve Columbus Day.  Here is 2019’s “Happy Columbus Day!“:

Today is Columbus Day in the United States, the day that commemorates Columbus’s voyage to the Americas in 1492.  It’s one of the most significant events in human history—as I tell my American History students, “we wouldn’t be here if Columbus hadn’t made his voyages”—yet the social justice, Cultural Marxist revisionist scolds want to do away with the holiday entirely, replacing it instead with “Indigenous People’s Day.”

The thrust of the proposed (or, as is the way with SJWs, demanded) name change is that Columbus was a genocidal, white male meanie who defrauded and murdered peace-loving Native Americans (who had the gall to mislabel Indians!), so instead we should celebrate the contributions of Stone Age cannibals.

Two States—Vermont and Maine (of course they’re in New England, the epicenter of neo-puritanical scolds)—have passed laws renaming the federal holiday to the SJW-approved Indigenous People’s Day.  One Maine mayor, however, refuses to bend, and has declared that in Waterville, Maine, Columbus will be honored.

Mayor Nick Isgro has garnered national attention for his stand to protect Columbus Day from the faddish winds of outrage culture:  “‘The history of mankind is not necessarily a nice one,’ he said. ‘With every great accomplishment, we could probably line up negative consequences as well as positive consequences and that goes across all peoples, all continents, all countries.’”

That’s probably one of the best, brief summaries of a proper historical perspective I’ve read recently:  we can find all sorts of nasty bits about every culture, country, and personality.  But that doesn’t detract from the greatness of their accomplishments.

The revisionists are not incorrect about Columbus:  he did, in his own misguided way, commit what we would now consider atrocities against the Arawaks of the Caribbean.  But it’s foolish to believe that the Native Americans were peaceful, “noble” savages, living in a harmonious state of nature until the evil, exploitative Europeans showed up.  That version of history is a Leftist passion play, which casts history into shades of (literal and metaphorical) black and white—and any white person must possess a black soul.

The peoples of the late fifteenth-century Caribbean were no saints.  To quote from Samuel Eliot Morrison’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea (quotation c/o VDare.com):

The searching party found plentiful evidence of these unpleasant Carib habits which were responsible for a new word—cannibal—in the European languages. In the huts deserted by the warriors, who ungallantly fled, they found large cuts and joints of human flesh, shin bones set aside to make arrows of, caponized Arawak boy captives who were being fattened for the griddle, and girl captives who were mainly used to produce babies, which the Caribs regarded as a particularly toothsome morsel.

Clearly, the Arawaks weren’t polite simpletons (which is how they come across in progressive retellings) snookered by a wicked Italian.  They were fattening up little boys t be eaten, and impregnating young girls to eat their offspring!

I recently wrote about similar Native American atrocities regarding the Aztecs.  The Aztecs’ atrocities are far better understood—the massive, organized human sacrifices, for example—but there’s still this push among modern historians to cast the Spanish conquistadors as the villains.

Naturally, we have to understand these cultures and civilizations in their time and place—but we can do so without condoning their barbarism and cannibalism.  Similarly, if we’re willing to accord some historical wiggle room to baby-eaters, can’t we extend the same generosity to Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors?

Further, as I read the accounts of various Native American practices, I can see why Spanish and subsequent Europeans believed they were doing the Lord’s work to wipe out these practices:  some of them are downright demonic.  It’s fitting that the bloody temples of Tenochtitlan were dismantled and replaced with a Christian cathedral.  The Old Testament is rife with examples of pagan places of worship being destroyed and replaced with altars to Jehovah.

(Of course, if the Spanish were indeed part of God’s Divine judgment on the Aztecs, et. al., Americans should be very worried today, as we continue to participate in mass infanticide.  God is patient, but His patience does not endure forever.)

So, yes, let’s celebrate Columbus on Columbus Day.  I’m glad to be in the New World, and that we don’t line people up to be sacrificed to a sun god every day.

Columbus

Tip The Portly Politico

Support quality commentary on politics, education, culture, and the arts with your one-time donation.

1.00 $

Lazy Sunday LXXXI: Education, Part II

The school year is roaring on, and we’re already coming up on the end of our first quarter (an unusually truncated first quarter, as we’ll only have been in school seven weeks by this Friday, plus two days).  I’ve been writing a bit more about education lately, as is common during the school year.  In The Age of The Virus, it makes for slightly more interesting writing than the usual complaints about overstuffed classrooms and understuffed paychecks.

I also haven’t featured education since “Lazy Sunday XXIV: Education,” so it seemed like a good time to revisit the topic that consumes most of my daily life.  Here are some recent posts on that all-consuming topic:

  • Progress Report: Teaching in The Age of The Virus” – I wrote this post just a few weeks ago, when interim/progress reports were coming out at my school.  It was a good opportunity, after nearly a month of teaching, to reflect on the additional challenges and burdens of teaching live to students face-to-face and online simultaneously, and of recording (often with buggy apps) for international students to watch later.  The workload has since taken on a more familiar pattern and rhythm, but those first few weeks consumed huge amounts of time and energy.
  • Teaching in The Age of The Virus: Live Remote Learning Rehearsal Day” – I wrote this post just two days ago, and it was a bit of an update on my “Progress Report.”  This post reviewed our “Live Remote Learning Rehearsal Day,” in which all students stayed home and livestreamed classes via Google Meet, while teachers taught from their respective classrooms.  I was surprised by how challenging it was to maintain the rapport of a classroom setting while having students sitting at home.  Very odd.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Making Music, Part II” – When I wrote this post yesterday, I had forgotten I’d written another SubscribeStar Saturday post of the same name in May!  That was bound to happen eventually, so I hastily added the “Part II” to this one.  Yesterday’s post was a bit of a counterpoint to the frustration and pessimism of Friday’s review of the live remote rehearsal day:  it was a celebration of music education, and the joy of watching student-musicians forming bands, writing lyrics, singing songs, and all that.  Indeed, it’s a reminder why teachers teach—and why music teachers have it the best, even if they work hard.

That’s it for another Lazy Sunday.  Here’s hoping you enjoyed a restful weekend.  It’s finally October, and the weather in South Carolina has been sublime:  warm enough to enjoy a walk in the afternoon, but cold enough to kill most of the bugs.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Donate to The Portly Politico

Support quality commentary on politics, education, culture, and the arts with your one-time donation.

$5.00

SubscribeStar Saturday: Making Music, Part II

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

This school year I began transitioning from teaching a blend of history and music classes towards focusing almost entirely on music.  While I still teach a couple of sections of American History, my teaching duties these days consist primarily music classes.

One of the real joys of teaching music—besides the fact that it’s just plain fun—is to see students inspired to create their own music.  I have been blessed over the years to witness the musical development of many students, and to hear some of their creations.

During our remote learning rehearsal day earlier this week, I pulled out some old concert footage to show my HS Music Ensemble class, a course that is entirely performance based.  That class does not port well to a fully online format, especially to a livestreamed one, as latency is so intense that it makes ensemble performance impossible.  Indeed, if that class goes to a fully online format, we’ll have to focus more on solo work and and music theory, which is what we did during distance learning earlier in the spring.

In watching that old concert footage, I was reminded of some wonderful moments in my school’s unorthodox music program’s history.  It also reminded me of the power of teaching music to inspire the creation of new works.

To hear my own musical works, visit https://tjcookmusic.bandcamp.com/ or www.tjcookmusic.com.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Donate to The Portly Politico

Support quality commentary on politics, education, culture, and the arts with your one-time donation.

5.00 $

Teaching in The Age of The Virus: Live Remote Learning Rehearsal Day

Periodically I’ve written updates and progress reports about teaching in The Age of The Virus.  My September “Progress Report” detailed the difficulties of teaching in-person and online simultaneously (with most students in class, and a few streaming the class online via Google Meet), while also recording live classes for international students to view at a later time.  Technical issues and glitches aside, it creates a number of additional tasks that eat up class and prep time, and overall increase our workloads by at least 20-30%—and often more.

My school’s approach has been to soldier on as long as possible, following stringent health and safety guidelines to keep the school clean.  Students are required to wear masks pretty much all day now, which is starting to irk some of them.  It really is a struggle to keep them on all day.  Students have the option to switch to the live remote platform if they’re ill or have been in contact with someone with The Virus.

So far, that system has worked remarkably well; since the start of classes, we’ve only had (to my knowledge) one student and one staff member test positive for The Virus, and that was after the fourth week of classes.  If that incredibly slow spread remains as such, we are far more likely to keep school going with some degree of normality for the duration of the academic year.

However, yesterday we ran a live remote platform rehearsal day to prepare ourselves in the event we need to transition speedily to remote learning only.  Students stayed home and logged in via Google Meet to their classes, while teachers reported to school and taught from their respective classrooms.  Students attended classes at their scheduled class times, and we continued to follow the usual bell schedule.

Read More »