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Rock and roll education

By Tim Middleton

It is claimed that Elvis Presley was declared “the fledgling King of Rock and Roll” by Robert Johnson in 1956, while in 2007 RCA Records released a box set of his greatest hits entitled “Elvis The King”. Indeed, the epithet remains even now, over 40 years after his death, while there are many people who believe that Elvis did not die but is alive today. A book has even been published in 1988 by Gail Brewer-Georgio called “Is Elvis Alive”, purporting to provide strong evidence to confirm that he did not die. Many cannot believe that the King is dead.

Many real kings have died down the centuries and there has been great sadness at the passing of many of them. Following the death of the French King Charles VII in 1461, the cry went up (translated into English as) “The King is dead: long live the King!” Such a cry was meant to bring encouragement and hope to the nation that the old may have gone but the new can bring life.

In applying this to education, there is an apocryphal story of a school inspector who visited a school and asked a class a biblical question. “Class, who broke down the walls of Jericho?” For a full minute there was absolute silence, the children all just staring at him blankly. Eventually one child raised his hand nervously and said, “Sir, I don’t know who broke down the walls of Jericho, but it wasn’t me”. The inspector looked at the teacher for an explanation so she quickly responded: “Well, I’ve known this boy since the beginning of the year and I believe that if he says that he didn’t do it, then he didn’t do it.” The inspector was shocked at the level of ignorance and stormed down to the principal’s office and told him what had happened. The principal replied: “Look, I don’t know the boy, but I socialise every now and then with his teacher and I believe her; if she feels that the boy was not involved, then he must be innocent.” The inspector could not believe what he was hearing so he grabbed the phone on the principal’s desk and called the Ministry to relate the entire episode and to berate the education standard in the school. The official sighed heavily and replied: “Eish, you know I’m very busy, I don’t know the boy, the teacher or the principal. Just get three quotes and have the wall fixed by my brother.”

We do not tell this story to show us that education as a whole is dying, is very nearly dead. It is weak, feeble, frail, sick, dying, ineffective, cold and bland. There is little life in much modern teaching, in textbooks and in tests, in rules and in results, in “rail-road” teaching, in the religion of the curricula and syllabi. Life has been sucked out by the same old, same old way our schools are run and subjects taught. Education is trapped in a grave, imprisoned, charged with inflicting serious mental harm to our children.

We may recall that insanity has been defined as doing the same things again and again expecting different results. We are therefore foolish if we think that the same old lifeless education will bring any change to society. Indeed, we are most to be pitied if we stick to the belief that education is simply for school life, for results. Education, come out! Education, come alive!

We need to bring education to life; the education we offer must come alive and bring life and hope and freedom. We must roll the boulder guarding the tomb away and let education come out and live. Education must be about people, changing lives, restoring relationships, building hope, growing respect, bringing life, joy, peace, fruit, goodness. Education must be filled with energy and excitement. The seed must die and be buried for it to come alive and bear real fruit.

It is interesting that Elvis Presley was never comfortable with being dubbed the King of Rock and Roll, claiming in one report in 1974 that he was not worthy of such a title and only one person could and should. This was another King that we remember at this time, who died and was buried but lives, who had to die in order to bring new life. The King has died in order for us to live long! Elvis knew that while he must have known something about education as well. After all, education needs to be, as he sang, “all shook up” or else we will all end up, in his words, “in the ghetto”. Indeed, as he warned, “it’s now or never”. Rock the boat and roll out the old; ring (and bring) in the new. The king is dead; long live the king! Education is dead; long live education.

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. 
  • email: ceo@atschisz.co.zw
  • website: www.atschisz

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