Only one student in my theory class today recognized the song “Lydia the Tattooed Lady,” and I had to sing it to jog his memory. There is no hope.
UPDATE, 3.28.15: Sometimes I feel impelled to resolve to no longer attempt to make jokes in this space, but if I ever come to that point, there will truly be no hope indeed. I can provide more context for the above remark for people who might want it. My students often surprise me with what they know. I would be neither disappointed nor dismayed if they were unfamiliar with Oklahoma or The Music Man, but in fact their knowledge of old musicals is often broader than mine – I suppose, because people my age keep directing such musicals at their high schools. They know West Side Story as well as I do. Gilbert and Sullivan, a cultural reference far older than the Marx Brothers, is on their radar. Their familiarity with barbershop quartet exceeds what I had at their age. And they certainly know who the Marx Brothers are, which makes it the more surprising that they haven’t seen the movies. When I was in high school all my friends quoted, and sang songs from, the Marx Brothers, and I didn’t get to see the movies until I was in college – but then, the VHS and DVD had not yet been invented, so they were not available on demand. Now putting “Marx Brothers” into YouTube gives me 57,300 results, and since my students seem to spend hours a day on YouTube, I find it inexplicable that they haven’t looked up such a still-relevant cultural touchstone. Nevertheless, I do not really think that their unfamiliarity with “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” is actually the crisis in education today. The crisis in education is its underfunding by a corrupt government. I hope this resolves any ambiguity.