I was offended by the Veterans’ Day observance yesterday at my granddaughter’s school. Veterans like me don’t consider the holiday an occasion for celebration but rather for reflection on the death and destruction of war. Instead, my neighborhood school treated us to a canned holiday program, complete with recorded accompaniment, celebrating nationalism with bad music.
Kids used to sing good music in school. The music teacher would accompany us on the piano. Now that public education has became a lucrative industry, the old public-domain standards have been replaced by computer-generated programs for mixed elementary school chorus, complete with sheet music, CD, and recommended commentary. Something for every occasion, no doubt.
The Veterans’ Day program our kids performed (remarkably well, considering how unmusical and unoriginal the tunes were) put melodies to selected words of our constitution and thanked veterans in song for protecting our freedom (neglecting to mention the wanton killing that stopped temporarily with the armistice the holiday is supposed to mark). I wonder how much the Hartford Public Schools paid for this program and whether there is a single music teacher who thinks it’s really music. I didn’t see a sign of musical enjoyment in any child at any time during the performance, and I was in the front row.
The prayer to the flag (a pledge of allegiance equal to any vow taken at a Hitlerjugend assembly) was invoked twice, and the kids sang the national anthem twice, too, which was excessive. The singers were so good, and so uninspired at the same time. Eventually, the veterans were asked to stand up and be recognized. I was ashamed and embarrassed, but I stood up anyway.
Next year, consider a good rendition of “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground” and “The Marines’ Hymn” and maybe some comments from an actual veteran on the history of the holiday and its significance to people who served in uniform.