Growing Up In Today’s America

As my son nears the completion of his senior year of high school, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with his sixth grade math teacher years ago. It was a conversation that, at least to me, revealed a lot about what it must be like to be a young kid in today’s America.

“Mr. Young,” she said as she peaked over the top of her glasses, “studies have shown that as early as sixth grade children are thinking about becoming architects and engineers. It is very important that they complete high school-level algebra during the seventh grade.”

“You have got to be kidding” I replied. “Sixth graders want to be architects and engineers? Is that so?”

“No Mr. Young, I’m not kidding, and yes, they want to be architects and engineers,” the teacher said as she leaned back in her chair and peered down her nose at me. She was serious.

“That’s funny,” I said. “Because when I was in the sixth grade all I wanted to do was be Spiderman and marry Olivia Newton-John.” Then I folded my arms across my chest and gave her my game face.

You should have seen the look on the woman’s face. It was the last thing she was expecting to hear.

“And how did that work out for you, Mr. Young?” she said, making little effort to contain her sarcasm.

“Well,” I replied as a grin worked its way onto my face. “I haven’t foiled any bank robberies lately.”

“And Ms. Newton-John?”

“I managed to find and marry the one woman that I love more than Olivia Newton-John.” I then turned and winked at my wife who was sitting next to me.

“Well then, I take it you never went to college?” Her tone had a snarky air to it. She thought she had me.

“Oh yes,” I said. “I went to college. I have a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. But when I was in the sixth grade if someone had asked me what an engineer was I would have told them that an engineer drives a train. And it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Like I said, life in sixth grade was all about Spiderman and Olivia Newton-John.”

I could see the woman deflate right before my eyes. I had just debunked all those fancy studies about what a sixth grader has to do to be successful academically.

“Well, I, uh…” The poor lady was speechless. I decided to give her one more little jab.

“Yep,” I said. “I went to college. But not before I served four years in the Marine Corps. Talk about an education… The Marine Corps taught me things I would have never been able to learn in college.”

The woman inhaled a deep breath and then exhaled sharply. She obviously could not believe what she was hearing. Not only had I not taken high school algebra in the sixth grade, I had not gone to college immediately after graduating high school.

The point of my story is that kids nowadays are not allowed to be kids. What is wrong with wanting to be Spiderman when you’re in 6th grade? What’s wrong with daydreaming about a pretty singer with an angelic voice like Olivia Newton-John? I was just a kid. And thankfully my parents let me be a kid. They didn’t feel the need to rush me by making me finish half of my future high school classes while still in elementary school. They knew I only had one chance to be a kid so they let me daydream about foiling bank robberies as Spiderman while having a crush on Olivia Newton-John.

It was the best childhood a kid could ever have.

The Problem With Today’s Country Music

There is a huge problem with today’s Country music and it’s not a lack of singing talent, pretty faces or cowboy hats. And it is not a lack of guitar playing talent either. Nope, it’s something far more serious.

So what’s the problem, you ask? It’s pretty simple. The problem is that today’s Country music bands are not “sticking it to the Man” like the Rock bands used to do.

The purpose of Rock music, when it was still alive, was to stick it to the Man. This was covered and covered well in the movie School of Rock.

Ask anyone that is old enough to remember the Sixties and they’ll tell you how the rockers of that decade loved to stick it to the Man. In the song Fortunate Son, Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of the greatest bands of their era, covered the Vietnam War, lying politicians and rich people that cheat on their taxes. CCR knew how to stick it to the Man.

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The only thing the Man truly fears.

But sadly, those days are gone. Rock music is dead and today’s Country music is boot-scooting on its grave. And as a result the Man is running wild.

The rockers of the Sixties were so successful at sticking it to the Man that they drove LBJ from office and brought down support for the Vietnam War. I’m not defending the Hippies from the Summer of Love but rather just giving credit where credit is due. In short, the rockers of the Sixties, most notably the singers and guitar players, were able to communicate with the young people of that decade and motivate them to rebel. This is the essence of sticking it to the Man.

LBJ was the Man during the Sixties and he got what was coming to him courtesy of Rock music.

Elvis_Presley_Jailhouse_RockBut this idea didn’t start in the Sixties. If you go back to the Fifties you’ll find Elvis. He was the epitome of sticking it to the Man. When Elvis shook his legs on TV, something no one was allowed to do at the time, young people went crazy and began to shake their legs along with him. When Elvis started in with Jailhouse Rock the Man could not contain the rebellion.

What gave Rock music its power in the Fifties and Sixties was that it held the collective ear of millions of young people. Today’s Country music has the same power – it holds the collective ear of millions of young people. But what do Country music bands choose to do with this power? They sing about mud on their trucks, ticks on their girlfriends, bar fights, tailgate parties or their poor old broken hearts. I’ll give them credit for supporting our troops in some of their songs but if they really wanted to support our troops they’d stick it to the Man instead.

Music has always been the most effective way to communicate with young people. They just won’t listen to anything else. Country music bands today should be using their power to awaken our young people and make them aware of the decline of America and of the corruption all around them. Instead of singing about mud on their truck or how the rain sounds on that old tin roof, they should sing to today’s young people and tell them they’ll be lucky to have an old truck or even a tin roof over their heads if America continues on its present course. Using their guitars, today’s Country music bands could stick it to the Man by opening the eyes and ears of millions of young people.

Or should I say, millions of young voters.