Friday, November 6, 2009

The Best Story Ever I Will Have Ever Told About Children.

Preface: My friend Matt is a private school teacher of general music and jazz at a private school. Said school, The Little Red Schoolhouse, is a very progressive institution with none of the rules you and I engaged in at public schools. Run in a horizontal hierarchy, all the adults--from janitor to director (principal)--are on a first-name basis and get equal credence. They have a board of directors composed of professional saints. Though the Little Red credo benefits from this in the strange celebrity student body it attracts, stories like this could take place anywhere.

Recently, Matt was co-teaching a third grade class of about 20 eight year olds. They were standing on choir risers learning Pete Seger. Matt was at his laptop preparing the next class and Lidell (the other co-teacher) was conducting a melody. All of a sudden, Cameron Glass (son of Philip) starts sobbing quietly.

Lidell: What's wrong, Cameron? (Gives Matt a bewildered look)
Cameron: (sniffling) I'm sad that Michael Jackson is dead.

Lidell looks at Matt, unsure of what to do or say here. The kids standing next to Cameron gently stroke his back and say, "it'll be OK." I like to think the neighboring children were Bowies and De Koonings.

Cameron: My dad bought tickets to his concert but he died two weeks before! (Sobbing louder)
Lidell: Well, we can still listen to his music. Matt, do you have any Michael Jackson in your computer?
Matt: Yes. (Laughs) Yes I do.

Matt starts foraging his library for Michael Jackson tunes and starts with "A,B,C" at maximum volume.

The kids go nuts.

Lidell: (Looks at Matt) Let's have a Michael Jackson dance party.

All the kids start dancing. The teachers start dancing. Matt plays "Thriller," "Billie Jean," "Beat it," "I Want you Back." The whole room is now bursting with Michael Jackson and a room of children and adults are pointing in the air, waving their arms, jumping up and down. Cameron slowly gets into it, swaying side to side and then eventually wipes the snot off his face and smiles. By "Beat It," all his cares are gone. As they are dancing, the kids start requesting "Bad."

Now, "Bad," for those who don't already know, was released in 1987, at least ten years before any of these children were born. The opening lyrics are:

Your butt is mine,
Gonna take you right,
Just show your face.
In Broad Daylight
I'm Telling You
On How I Feel
Gonna Hurt Your Mind
Don't Shoot To Kill
Come On, Come On,
Lay It On Me All Right...

According to Wikipedia, in his 1988 memoir, Moonwalk, MJ said of "Bad":

"Bad" is a song about the street. It's about this kid from a bad neighborhood who gets to go away to a private school. He comes back to the old neighborhood when he's on a break from school and the kids from the neighborhood start giving him trouble. He sings, "I'm bad, you're bad, who's bad, who's the best?" He's saying when you're strong and good, then you're bad.

"Bad" comes on the speakers and the kids are now all over the room, doing their Michael Jackson impersonations, replete with castrati-style "hooo!"s, "shamow!", and of course, moonwalking.

I wonder when they learned these things but mostly I marvel at the irony of rich 8-year olds (Mike's favorite kind of person) celebrating his music and begging for "Bad."
This story makes me really happy.


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