Two days ago, there was a news item concerning a school in Victoria (Australia), that had allowed Muslim students to be excused from assembly on one morning.
The principal of the school explained that, as that day was part of a solemn ‘holy’ observance time for Muslims and a time when their religion discouraged any ‘joyousness’ the students were permitted to leave assembly for the duration of any singing.
Well, what followed was amazing. Apparently, someone reported this happening to local media and the next thing was an avalanche of hate messages and abuse on social media, accompanied by a grandmother speaking out on radio for many minutes about how ‘ungrateful’ were the Muslims who had been ‘welcomed into this country of ours’ and yet ‘refused to sing our National Anthem’.
The vitriol that was aired on every platform that day was horrendous. Few people had actually read or understood the real reason for the students briefly vacating the assembly room on that day.
One of the things that struck me was that people were associating the entire Muslim community with world-wide acts of terrorism and accusing all Muslims of ‘hating’ Australia and Australians.
But it was quite clear where this current flood of hate was emanating and it wasn’t from the Muslim community, but towards it.
One on-line news outlet posted this question:
Do you believe Muslim students should be allowed to leave while Aussie anthem is sung?
The answers flowed immediately, spewing mostly hate and oft-times vile comments.
To put a slight perspective on this social media hate avalanche, I (unwisely, perhaps) added a comment.
My comment simply said:
‘As a teacher, over many years I have watched as (student) Jehovah's Witnesses have left assemblies as the National Anthem has been sung. Is this different?’
Thankfully, someone called Beck answered with: ‘No, it's not.’
And I was pleased that my comment received several ‘likes’.
But, then this popped through (from Samantha): ‘What? We're really in trouble if you're teaching our children’
What did that mean?
My first instinct was to reply, by simply asking ‘Why?’ but I thought better of it, realising that it was better for me to extricate myself from that particular news outlet and let the ‘commenters’
have their say until they had had their fill of Muslim hating for the day.
Can you see the pattern emerging here? I have no particular love for Muslim beliefs or customs, any more than I have a particular fondness for any specific religion or custom.
But the sheer hostility towards the Muslim community is reaching fever pitch, so much so that people are voicing meaningless garbage.
I admit to being slightly irritated when, over the years, in all the schools I ever taught, children whose families embraced the Jehovah’s Witness beliefs did not join in the singing of the Australian National Anthem. However, I accepted their different views and no one ever phoned into radio stations to voice their consternation.
It seems that, in the school currently in question, the Muslim students usually enthusiastically join in the singing of the National Anthem but it was just at this particular time on their religious observance calendar that they demurred.
Keeping in mind that the first line of the Australian National Anthem is “Australians all let us rejoice…” and these students were avoiding singing and anything joyous. Seems sensible? Understandable?
Sure, we all know that the current wave of terrorists claim to be devout Muslims, but there are other religious fanatics of all creeds who wreak havoc and terror in the name of their religion. The majority of ‘ordinary’ Muslims who have settled in Australia seem to be peaceful and family oriented people.
Why then was there so much hatred aimed at them all because of the (understandable) actions of some, on one day in their religious observance? And why was the anger stirred up by certain sections of the media?
I, for one, do not think this abuse was deserved and I am ashamed of my fellow Australians who felt the need to attack.
Yes, I’m back on the subject of music - & songs that try to tell the world that all is not well. The world is a mess with so many war-torn parts of the world.
Is this a hopeless task?
I mean, singing about how to bring about peace? Is that hopeless? I think so!
If you search on line for ‘songs for world peace’, you’ll soon discover that there are dozens (maybe hundreds) written over the decades – indeed, over centuries.
So, what does that tell us?
Does it suggest that many people have worried and shown their opposition to war in the ‘trouble spots’ of the world … throughout all time … just as we do today?
And still it continues. We have to accept that singing anti-war songs does little to help.
There are people who have sadly, in their lifetime, never known other than conflict and terror and bombs and fighting.
And songs are written.
Think of children who may never know a peaceful existence; kids who have never experienced a happy family picnic, never been to a party, never been to the beach. (Don’t even know what a beach is!). Kids who have never seen birds in a blue sky or climbed a grassy hill just to roll down it. Kids whose school has been blown to smithereens. Maybe their homes also. Maybe their friends and family members have been brutalized - or killed - before their eyes.
What would they know about peace?
(‘Last night I had the strangest dream…’)
In Australia John Farnham sings:
“We're all someone's daughter
We're all someone's son
How long can we look at each other
Down the barrel of a gun?”
Before going on to sing:
“You're the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear…”
“We're not gonna sit in silence
We're not gonna live with fear”
And, we DON’T ‘sit in silence’, because we DON’T want to ‘live with fear’
But that ‘living in fear’ is what it's like for many people. And it doesn’t seem to matter what we say, or think or do. Or what we sing.
When the song then suggests:
“This time, we know we all can stand together
With the power to be powerful
Believing we can make it better…”
We know that that is true in some ways, but how can we ‘make it better’?
John Farnham has been singing this song since 1986. Think about that! 1986!
It’s just yet another song that is sung with gusto – and has been for nearly 30 years - and yet, like countless other songs, has little effect other than us voicing something to make us feel ever-so-slightly better; even though it does nothing towards a more peaceful existence.
It is so disillusioning that the ‘powers-that-be’ continue to promote war-like attitudes…and this is not just where the fighting is currently happening, but most of the ‘Western world’ (Hello, USA! Hello UK! Hello Australia!). It is unforgiveable that we can have - in living memory - the atrocities of World Wars 1 and 2 and yet not learn a thing from them.
I now often resort to listening to music to block out the awfulness of what is happening, especially with the current mistreatment of asylum seekers.
I no longer concentrate on music literally promoting peace but, instead, use some music for the soul.
Please take time to check out the beautiful singing of Gurrumul, singing in his native language.
What is happening? Just eight news reports from yesterday…
1.‘The Coalition government will introduce its fifth tranche of counter-terrorism laws after the shooting of a police worker by a 15-year-old, extending control orders to suspects aged 14 years or more…’
Shocking, but true that a 15 year-old can be a terrorist (albeit seduced by someone older than 15!)
2.‘The age at which control orders can be applied to terrorism suspects will be reduced from 16 to 14, as part of the federal government’s fifth tranche of counter-terrorism laws, to be introduced into parliament in the coming weeks.’
Yes, we have to lower the age of checking on suspected terrorists to 14!
3.‘A Melbourne man has been found guilty of attempting to join the conflict in Syria…’
Cannot understand why someone would wish to leave Australia to ‘join the conflict’ in Syria. If he was here, why didn’t he stay? (or is that too simplistic?)
4. ‘Violence in the name of Islam, and anti-Muslim protests, could be seen as a sign of a fracturing society. Let’s keep our perspective; our public debate is actually improving….’
‘Fracturing society’ is right and we can only hope that the public debate is ‘improving’.
5. ‘Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meets with religious leaders in Canberra, as part of a bid to improve relations with the Muslim community.’
Will this do any good? Will the potential ‘terrorists’ be listening? Possibly not.
6. ‘Federal Opposition frontbencher Lisa Singh breaks ranks and calls for an end to "ongoing mandatory indefinite" offshore detention of asylum seekers.’
Hooray! A politician who is asking for the awful, inhumane detention of asylum seekers to end.
7. ‘The University of Tasmania issues a warning to students and staff on all campuses about a "general" security threat.’
But we’re still more worried about the security threat of….what? Terrorists attacking Tasmania’s University?
8. ‘Syrian regime troops aided by Russian air strikes fight their fiercest clashes with rebels in weeks, as US-led coalition forces parachute ammunition to rebels battling jihadists in northern Syria.’
Is this bloody fighting getting anyone anywhere? On and on it goes. And now Russia is involved and yet seems confused as to who it is fighting for and who against. (Guess it will all be revealed soon… and no doubt the letters U,S and A will feature, even if just for posturing).
Why is the world like this? There is so much intelligence and so much clever stuff going on – I mean people are wearing phones on their wrists for heaven’s sake and there are cars that can drive themselves and yet…and yet…no one can figure out a method of securing a bit of peace in the world Beats me!
But, at last…the 9th news report:
9. ‘A kangaroo jumps into the path of a car on a busy road in Adelaide's inner southern suburbs, leaving the driver, who had her grandson in the vehicle with her, "pretty shaken up".’
Phew! Thanks goodness for the kangaroo! And for a news report worth reading… Well, a news report that’s not too scary (apart from the bit about the poor driver who was ‘pretty shaken up.’)
PS: In my last blog post I tried to equate the misery in the world with the fact that few people were singing any more. Possibly that was an exaggeration, but I still stand by the fact that the world would be a better place if we sang more!
It was 1958 and Anna had been posted to a school as a student teacher. She was 16 years old and had not long left school herself. Her training as a real teacher had yet to begin.
Not yet in charge but simply as an observer, Anna tried to make herself look inconspicuous in the classroom of ten-year-olds as she became fascinated with the way the teacher (he who was in charge) started his students singing.
He picked up a tuning fork, hit it on the side of his desk and, copying the note it uttered, sang, ‘Sing C’. The students all answered (voicing the same note) ‘C’.
The teacher followed with (down the scale) ‘C,B,A,G’ to which the children answered in same.
Then, teacher: ‘Call G do’ (pronounced, ‘doe’)
Teacher: (up and down scale): ‘do, mi, so, mi, do, so, do, (repeating) do, so’
and held that note for a second, following which the students began singing a song, beginning on that note, ‘When birds have gone to rest….’
Anna had spent many hours singing as a schoolgirl but had never known how to find a starting note using a tuning fork and she loved what she saw.
In another section of the school, on another day, Anna is in a large room with about 150 small children and four or five teachers, one of whom sits at a piano.
The piano player hits a few notes and the children start singing: ‘Good morning, good morning and how do you do…’. When that song is finished the teacher at the font of the large groups suggests another song and the pianist quickly finds the music, plays a short intro and the children joyously sing a song about the weather.
Then follows a song about a frog before it’s time to sing ‘happy birthday’ to a couple of children. After the obligatory claps for the birthday boy and girl, another child is ushered up to the front and the children all join in singing a song about the blessings of a new baby. (This is 1958, remember).
More whole group singing follows and, after about 30 minutes, time is up and children are ready to return to classrooms for work. They all march out of the assembly room, singing as they go, ‘He’s only a one-legged soldier…’ (a favourite!)
Fast forward to 1965 and Anna, now a fully qualified teacher for the past three years, is at the front of her own class of five-year-olds.
‘Good morning, good morning and how do you do..’ she sings along with the children.
Then, ‘It’s a windy day today, the clouds are flying across the sky…’ they sing about the weather.
‘What shall we sing now?’ she asks and children raise their hands with suggestions.
Several more songs follow. After the morning singing session is over the children are ready for work and happiness reigns.
Fast forward a long way now and it’s the 1980s.
Anna sits at a piano in a large classroom – all furniture pushed back to make room for nearly 100 children from the first three classes.
Anna strikes up a few notes and the children sing, ‘Good morning, good morning…’
Thirty minutes and a dozen or so joyous songs later, the children skip back to their classrooms, ready for the day’s work.
For quite some years, as Anna teaches at that particular school she manages to have a piano in her classroom. Her class sings every morning. ‘We have to start the day with a song’, is her mantra. Other classes often join in.
Now…fast forward to 2010.
Anna has retired from teaching but occasionally helps out as a ‘relief teacher’.
She sometimes visits the school where she made sure there was always a piano for her to play.
There is no sign of the piano and Anna is too polite to ask its whereabouts.
There is also no sound of singing coming from any classroom.
It is the same in another school she visits.
No music, no singing.
In a class of nine-year-olds one day, Anna says, ‘Let’s start the day with a song!’
The children look at her; some giggle, some mutter under their breath, ‘what?’
She tries to coax a song out of them, but it’s hopeless and she gets out the work sheets instead.
It is then that Anna begins to wonder about where the songs and the singing have gone.
Less than ten years ago, you would have heard children singing in this school; less than a century ago there was a time when EVERYONE used to sing. People sang around the piano. They sang at school and church. They sang around campfires and just sang around the home.
Certainly there are some schools nowadays where children sing. There is still some singing in churches and I’m sure campfire songs can still be heard – but all occasionally and more organised and not as a normal part of every day as once was.
You’d have to have been hiding under a brick to have missed what has been said about music and singing over the years. How it helps children in their daily lives and even aids the ability to master mathematics!
Here’s a quote from USA educational website: ‘exposing children to music stimulates their overall intelligence and emotional development’…Wow, how’s that?
And this, from (creativity Australia – sing for good)
‘Research has proven time and time again that singing is great for mental health and general wellbeing, and connects communities. Singing together changes the brain’
We could spend days researching the benefits of singing, but here’s a list (from the Internet) to sumarize:
Ten reasons to make singing your drug of choice, to:
Is it television and electronic devices that have stopped the singing? Is it just the busy-ness of modern life? What is it?
Have you noticed how depression is a common condition in children and adults in ever increasing numbers? They're not singing, are they?
Have you noticed the tuneless ‘raps’ that seem to have replaced a lot of (real) music for the younger generation?
No singing in our lives can be dangerous.
Think about it.
Have you ever found joy in singing with a group or family, an old song such as ‘I’ve been working on the railroad..’? Can you remember doing that?
Think about it.
So, come on teachers, parents…come on everyone.
Let’s start the day with a song - and change the world!
‘Sing C’. ………..
PS: When searching for and illustration of children singing together, I found mainly old-fashioned pictures. I guess that says it all!
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.