Someone sent me a press release about “educational rap music.”

I knew right away the music would suck. People who write good music do not need to say that it’s educational. I mean, is Bach not educational? Is he just for idiots? What makes some music educational and some not?

Stuff that needs to be labeled educational in order to sell is stuff that is boring and stupid. It’s stuff that kids won’t ask for and instead needs to be force-fed by adults who do not trust kids to know good music when they hear it.

I learned about music by listening to it. I listened to new wave music when I wanted to date a boy who liked that music. I listened to classical music in college when I decided I needed to take responsibility for filling the gaps in my knowledge.

I am certain that kids learn from any music they are willing to listen to. Some music challenges them and some doesn’t. For example, the Mario Kart music is so familiar to them that I don’t think they even hear it. And Kronos Quartet is too complicated for them to even hear the notes as connected to each other.

The importance of challenging ourselves in an optimum way cannot be understated. The attributes of a good job might seem complicated, but actually, they are simple: Goals that challenge you but that ultimately, you can meet and feel good about meeting.

This is the same thing kids learn when they listen to music: It should challenge them enough to be interesting but be ultimately understandable.

That’s why we don’t need educational jobs—we just have jobs that people like. And we shouldn’t have educational materials for kids—just materials kids like.


14 replies
  1. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    My brother is a public school teacher and he has a band that performs songs to teach kids the standards. Rockinthestandards. If your kid has to go to school, it’s not a bad way to go.

  2. karelys
    karelys says:

    So I clicked the link for Kronos Quartet and I knew Kronos sounded familiar but couldn’t place it. So I wikipedia it (I knew it was a greek mythology character but wasn’t sure what the story was).

    Anyway, so I read about how Kronos is a titan which is dad to Zeus who castrated his dad and out of the blood spilled the giants and other creatures were born.

    It was so entertaining and hilarious to read!

    I loved it!

  3. JML
    JML says:

    Educational rap = Jay-Z’s 99 Problems

    “Glove compartment’s locked, so is the trunk in the back. And I know my rights so you’re gonna need a warrant for that.”

    Now I know my rights too!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Whoohooo! I love those lyrics and I love Jay-Z. I wish there were quotes from his song in every comment string on my blog. Thanks for this one.


  4. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I’m so excited to post this email I just received from the educational rap music company. It’s great evidence about how checked out “educational” companies are. There is no acknowledgement in this email that I was actually highly critical of their software:

    On Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 9:36 AM, Kelly Johnson wrote:
    Hi Penelope,

    Recently you showed interest in one of our programs called Flocabulary. I would like to get your feedback on the program and answer any questions you might have. Please contact me at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your time and look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Kelly Johnson
    Curriculum Software Advisor
    phone: 800.624.2926 ext 3374
    fax: 847.717.6246
    Sunburst Digital |
    1550 Executive Drive. Elgin, IL 60123

  5. Stef
    Stef says:

    I remember some educational songs from school. One taught us to memorize all of the U.S. presidents chronologically, and one listed the 50 states in alphabetical order. It’s true that as music they suck. I mean, I wouldn’t play them at a party (well, actually, it could be funny depending on which how drunk people were) but I will say that there is something about things set to music that really makes them stick.

    ♪ Hot pockets! ♪

  6. Meg
    Meg says:

    Similarly, we have learned to eschew any reading material that is ranked or rated with official reading levels. It’s all terrible, and bores my kids to pieces. I personally can’t stand reading it aloud, and find my voice starting to get sarcastic, extra slow, and with exaggerated choppiness. It’s hard to read that stuff without lampooning it.

    Happily, we have found Candlewick Press to be pretty trustworthy for interesting, funny kids’ books with rich language and vivid storylines. We donated about 50 junk books we’d been given over time. Life is too short, and space too limited, to clutter it up with dull fiction, because what is fiction for, if not pleasure?

    At any rate, the kids and I will steer clear of anything at all with any sort of rating as to reading level, on it. Educational material, is much like institutional food for thought.

  7. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    One of my pet sayings is that ‘Education Sucks’.
    There’s good and bad of course.
    I discovered recently that our Education System is based on the Prussian System of education.
    Googled it and came up with an article by John Taylor Gatto.
    A real eye opener.
    It really confirmed what I have already experienced when my children were at school.
    Ended up Home Schooling my daughter who is now 27. It was totally rewarding. Well worth the effort. My son’s a different story but rescued him by pulling him out of school early to start an apprenticeship.
    Funnily enough I have met a few teachers since reading the article and when I asked
    if they knew what system our education is based on they said No.
    Enough said as usual am responding to your Headline and will now go back and read the post.
    Thanks Penelope Love your Blog
    Margaret Price
    Soon to be blogging

  8. Kim
    Kim says:

    We LOVE the youtube series MrParr It’s science lyrics to modern tunes.
    It’s not always the best but I’d rather have my kids sing those lyrics then most the actual lyrics. Even if it’s geeky!

    Heck there are still things as adult that I reference Sesame Street Songs for…. granted I get looked at funny because it was Canadian Sesame Street songs from the 70-80s.

  9. Julie
    Julie says:

    They Might Be Giants makes educational music that emphatically doesn’t suck. My kids love it, and so do I. My older son who does not need to review his numbers or his letters still loves to listen to and sing along to their songs about numbers and letters And Here Comes Science is solid awesome. The difference is probably that TMBG were successful musicians first, rather than educators who tried to write cool music, so they wrote them from a solid musical perspective.


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