Question Everything?

Education is all about ideas; it is about wanting to connect these ideas to people. It is about accepting that change is inevitable; technology will advance, Science will find out new and fascinating things and we will either lean in, learn and grow or we will shut off all ours senses and potentially stunt ourselves and the next generation’s growth. To grow we need to question, through the question we find ourselves experimenting and new ways of growing and evolving emerge.

As much as we can cite technology and science as being responsible for the changes and evolution within our society. There is an interdependent relationship between arts and culture which is able to disturb the centre from the outside. Music has always been able to stand at the fringe of cultural change and use its voice to create social commentary. Musicians hold a power they are the voice of subcultures. Subcultures can form because of various reasons, but look at the core of the vast majority of subcultures and you will find a specific love of a particular genre of music from the Mods and the Rockers to the Punks and the Rude Boys.

Education is all about perspective, being able to view ideas from different angles and allowing those ideas and the young minds which view them to grow. A fact is a fact until it is disproven. If we move forward with that in mind, we never stay stagnant in our ideas. As Educators we have the ability to learn as much as we teach from our students.

With that in mind within the core of all the workshops at the British Music Experience is the idea that we should question everything. In our Pop Culture workshop, we explore how in the late ‘70s Punks were seen (by non-Punk fans) as aggressive rebels, disenfranchised sub culture youth group moaning at their position in society. Instead of stating that ‘Punks are just angry’, why did people at the time not ask the more valuable question of ‘why are they angry’? Within the answer we see a generation of teenagers ‘left on the shelf’, their futures unsecured due to a government who is seemingly not investing in the next generation.

The Sex Pistols became synonymous with the infamous BBC broadcast where Bill Grundy provoked them into saying ‘something outrageous’, what resulted at the time was an outrageous retort from Steve Jones. The phones rang off the hook with complaints. When analysing the interview now, you see Steve Jones is responding to Bill Grundy’s lewd comment to a woman. Grundy wasn’t questioned, a male making solicitous comments to a woman was simply a sign of the times. Jones was penalised for using language which was seen as more outrageous then the degradation of a woman. This seemed to eclipse the political commentary that the Sex Pistols were producing at the time. God Save the Queen wasn’t so much about disrespecting the Queen as it was about protesting against the monarchy generally and particularly the excesses of the celebrations of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations.  

Fast forward twenty years and the Punks are seen as one of, if not the most powerful sub culture youth group in society being able to disrupt and bring attention to the mass inequality in society at a time of political turbulence.

To the present day and we find ourselves in the midst of a genre so explosive and disruptive in its discourse that it has been compared to being as influential as the Punk movement in the late seventies.

Grime has the ability, for us as educators, to make relevant current connections, lessons and programmes based around students’ interest. The workshop Shakespeare the Grandfather of Hip Hop looks at the idea that if Shakespeare were alive today would he have been a playwright or would he have been a Grime artist. Our creative outlets are as much to do with the culture of the immediate society around us as it is to do with our personal interests. Those who appreciate the power of the written word and have a lyrical rhythm to the way they write may find themselves reaching for the pen to spit lyrics. However, in Shakespearean times it was as controversial to be a playwright, the stage was the battle ground for political address.

The workshop not only looks at the connections between Shakespeare and current day Grime artists but also looks at the idea of using language for political discourse. Skepta’s 2015 Shutdown a light on the injustice of the form 696, which allowed the Metropolitan Police to unfairly shut down Grime gigs before they had even happened without any evidence of potential violence but just an anticipation of aggression. The form was scraped as the targeting of urban music was questioned as being racist.

Grime was an evolution of Garage music; it wasn’t so much of an explosion on the scene as an evolution of urban music. Grime however was unapologetic in its ferocity. As stated by Ghetts in Rebel ‘All I required from the riot, is people are sick and tired of being quiet (it’s a living hell) Dying to be heard, that’s why there’s fire in my words’. Grime was literal in its explanation of where the undertone of anger was coming from. As with the Punks there is a generation of youth who are cheated out of their futures. The 2011 riots started as a protest to the rise in student’s tuition fees.  This rise means the class structure which still exists today in Britain is upheld by making university unattainable for those not born into privilege.

Did society sit up and listen to these youths or were their voices dismissed in a cloud of anarchy? Kanye’s performance at the 2015 Brits was clouded in a storm of controversy. He performed with other prominent Grime artists such as Skepta, Krept and Konan and Stormzy. Ofcom received hundreds of complaints from viewers stating they were ‘scared’ at what they had seen.

When Shakespeare’s works were performed during his time, the audience did not go to ‘watch’ Shakespeare they went to ‘hear’ Shakespeare. It was and still is the language which we adore. Let’s not forget that Shakespeare is not all romance and love. Shakespeare produced numerous works around the politics of monarchy, wars and violence. Why therefore did the audience watch Kanye’s performance and only analyse the visual performance instead of listening to the lyrics. It’s in the lyrics where the power is held.

As Stomzy in Hear Dis raps ‘they said I can’t tweet about the government, why can’t I be free anymore? I’ll expose those racist clubs and feds who can’t move me anymore’. What’s interesting in Stomzy’s lyrics is not just the literal meaning of being moved from clubs due to the 696 form but also the metaphor of how a younger generation has lost its faith in authority. Gone are the days of Churchill where he moved us with his words, now politicians’ speeches are met with scepticism and distrust.

Now more than ever we are in a political climate where we need to nurture the next generation. We are in a volatile time where the balance seems to be tipping less in favour of taking care of the vulnerable in society, but instead placing blame in order to distract from actual core issues.

We as individuals have the power to experiment, play and change; change music, change art, change ideas and most importantly change ourselves. We may stop our physical growth but our thoughts, ideas and questions can never be silenced.

We can listen to the lyrics and understand the motivations behind the frustrations of sub cultures. We can stop making quick judgements and reading false news but instead question everything we see. It is impossible for us as educators, people and as a society to progress unless we ask questions.

This is why when working in Education we may define ourselves as educators but the label is just a label. If we allow for an open dialogue with our learners, whilst equally accepting that we too ourselves are in a position to learn, then we have the potential to create an environment which stimulates the minds of our learners and ourselves. It really isn’t the answers which matter the most, it’s the questions.