Jackson Pollack, Politics, and My Seasonal Angst!


Anyone who reads this blog or has met me in person knows that I am a very opinionated person. Everyone would expect that as we near yet another election cycle I would be giddy with excitement, but in reality I hate election years. 

In fact, I hate the entire campaign season. I know I am not alone in this and I would speculate the most of America wretches at the thought of this bi-annual exercise in patriotic self-loathing.

I used to wonder about the credulity and the the wisdom of having a republic (in which we choose representatives to choose our leaders) versus a democracy (in which we vote directly for our leaders) but recent elections have me believing that the founding fathers were on to something when they decided to send delegates to decide whom should lead our country. Honestly, I would be happy at this point to send some people to represent me and make the decision if it would spare me going through the next four weeks.

What is the source of my grand frustration? Is it the nasty rhetoric? Is it the venom of our national discourse? Is it the misleading and degrading ads? Is it the fact that regardless of the outcome 50% of our country will be in celebration while the remaining balance will be in depression? 

Nope! It’s all of those flipping *%$#@### campaign signs on my street corner.

They drive me insane! 

Beyond the fact that I am a visually oriented person and all of these signs turn every street into a Jackson Pollack painting, it’s the simplicity of it all. All of these signs are trying to reduce the complexity and nuance of a complex governmental organization into a leadership quip or patriotic McNugget. 


This past week, while driving my son to school, I came across a sign for State Superintendent of Public Instruction which read, “Fix our Failing Schools.”

Really? Our schools are failing? Hmmmm. Despite the fact that there is NO EVIDENCEto support such a slanderous claim (in fact, all indicators show our schools to be performing at historic highs), he believes he will gain support by publicly shaming and insulting 100,000 teachers and the 350,000 students they teach.

Upon returning home I called the candidate and informed him that I had just dropped my son off at his highly successful public school, where he would be educated, exercised, & fed for pennies on the dollar all under the watchful eye of highly trained and skilled college educated professionals who would love him as if he were their own. I further let him know that I would like to see a list of these “failing” schools and the dates he visited them.

There was a long pause… and then a brief apology.

It’s easy to complain. It’s easy to point out the problem when you're not required to provide a solution. Admittedly, there is a self satisfying element of martyrdom in believing that only you can see and solve what others can’t. But this type of thinking is self aggrandizing and panders to the lowest common denominator by dealing in partial (if any) truths.

What does this have to do with this e-zine?

Sometimes, as music educators, we are no better than our political counterparts. We tear each other and this profession down bemoan rather than lift it up. We speak of what’s not working in music education instead of what is. We celebrate the negatives and ignore the positives. We speak in generalities that cloud the true facts and obfuscate the truth and beauty and impact of this art form. 

In short, in search of personal or public affirmation, we sometimes become our own worst critics. We become a living, breathing campaign sign against ourselves.

As the antidote to the political circus we are all about to endure, perhaps for the next four weeks we could all campaign for what is right with music education and our nation's public schools. 

We might not win an election but you can bet our street corners would look a whole lot better as our signs would be uniformed and stand in straight lines.