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Monday, November 03, 2008

M.U.S.I.C. in class

With the US election tomorrow, it seems a fitting time to read Thomas Paine and Jimmy Cliff at the top of a middle-school assignment about social justice and perseverance, followed by 7th-graders' interpretations. New York City teacher John Chase's 8th-graders' even more powerful responses to songs about social responsibility and empathy indicates how much the assignment resonated with them (put this into an anti-cyberbullying lesson, teachers and advocates!). Music - or rather M.U.S.I.C. (Musicians United for Songs in the Classroom), a nonprofit organization Chase formed - is literally bringing history to life, or rather to his students' everyday lives and connections with the people in them (including their teachers!). Here's the Paine-Cliff assignment in Chase's own words in his MySpace blog, where so many musicians and students are: "Last month 7th-grade students studied the American Revolution and learned about the 'power of the pen' and Thomas Paine's essay, 'The American Crisis.' We also listened to and discussed Jimmy Cliff's song, 'The Harder They Come.' I then asked my students to practice being Paine or Cliff, and compose a personal mission statement, poem, or lyric to inspire and motivate people to 'fight on' in our times." Here's the story on Chase and the M.U.S.I.C. program, as well as the past summer's project, with comments from musicians involved. In his bio Chase quotes Maya Angelou as saying, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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