I just read about the new direction the San Francisco School system is taking. The updated education guide they’ve developed for the district has an admirable goal: to “transform the educational experiences for every child in each of our schools.”
That’s great. All school boards come out with these kinds of reports and studies to encourage and empower their teachers and administrators. But San Francisco took it a step further. In order to drive home their positive message, they’ve compared their findings to a universal experience everyone can relate to; something that will generate enthusiasm among the staff. Something that would jolt everyone who read it in to high energy excitement, the likes of which they hadn’t felt in, well, maybe about forty years or so.
Here’s their sales pitch: “Remember the first time you heard Jimi Hendrix? Our plan is as transformational now as his music was then!” The story I read goes on to say that a pensive portrait of Hendrix himself is on the cover and on every page of the document. And in order to make it even more special, each book comes with a Hendrix poster and a Hendrix canvas bag.
I’m not sure who the authors of the education guide are, but I have a message for them: 1968 called. They want their rock star back.
Let’s think about this, shall we? The first time you heard Jimi Hendrix? I have to assume the presumption here is that sometime during the musical coming-of-age of the San Francisco educational community at large, they all shared an identical come-to-Jesus moment when they heard Hendrix on his guitar for the first time.
Perhaps that’s true. It’s just that Hendrix released his last album in 1968, ended his touring in 1969 and died in 1970. So let’s assume that by the age of twenty, you were the biggest Hendrix fan on the planet, and not only purchased his music, you attended his performances and mourned his death. That would make you about 59 years old today. If you loved him while you were in your mid-twenties, you’re closing in on retirement and your teaching pension.
I hope the teachers in San Francisco are a little less egocentric that the people who wrote the new plan. I ask you: who writes an education guide in 2009 and tries to generate excitement about it by recalling Jimi Hendrix? And giving out posters and bags? The clear implication of the phrasing, “the first time you heard Hendrix” is that you listened to him at the peak of his career, during the time when his music was “transformational.” You didn’t discover Hendrix on a classic rock station or on a CD.
Teachers in the San Francisco school system who are younger than 38 years old weren’t even born until after Hendrix died for God’s sake.
I have another message of the authors of this guide: 1968 called again. It’s not all about you anymore.