The year was 1995. I was a sophomore in high school. At the time I was really into bands like Rage Against the Machine and Metallica. I guess I was bit of a metalhead. Anyways, one day in my spanish class this girl asked me if I wanted to buy her boyfriend’s band’s tape. She then flashed me a cassette tape under her desk. The band was called The Skinniez.
At the time I had no idea that anyone other than “big” bands had tapes and CDs. I thought it was so cool that these guys at my school had a tape out. I bought it for $4 and my life changed forever.
It’s not that The Skinniez music changed my life, although it is a really good demo, it’s the fact that this was my gateway into the world of independent, underground music; the world of punk rock and hardcore music. This scene, and all of it’s associated values and beliefs have molded me into the man I am today. Just as much as my parents did, the scene raised me. After reflecting on my teaching philosophy, I can safely say that punk rock and hardcore music directly influence my thinking as a teacher.
When I say punk rock and hardcore, it probably means different things to different people. Depending on your age and your exposure to these types of music, this post may not have as much meaning to you as does to me and others. With this in mind I will try to explain what I mean so you can see the power that this music scene had on my life.
This is a band called Strife in 1995. While many see chaos and violence, and hear noise and screaming, I see fun and unity (and sore necks), and hear passion. The band and the fans were one. Getting to jump on stage and sing along with your favorite band is sort of exclusive to this scene. It’s pretty awesome and taught me that no one is better than anyone else.
Starting in 1995 I started going to punk rock and hardcore shows. Growing up in Riverside, CA I frequented places like The Barn and Showcase Theatre. I feel like I was there almost every weekend. Within a few months I started my first band, The Beatnix. This was my life. At the time it just was what it was. As a teenager I never really reflected on my own beliefs and values. Those things were still being developed. While I embraced the punk rock attitude and looked like a “hoodlum” (my grandma’s description of me in high school), I remained a decent student and was accepted to UC Riverside. While in college I still went to shows and was still playing in various bands. This was my life. It was me.
The point of this post is not to recall my youth, but to reflect on how the punk rock and hardcore scene influenced me and shaped my teaching philosophy…
D.I.Y. – The punk rock community is a very Do-It-Yourself community. When we were in bands we made our own Tapes/CDs, our own flyers, our own t-shirts. Everything we did, we created on our own. This creativity is evident in my life today and shows in my lesson design and just my overall classroom environment. I just do things a little differently and I take pride in this risk taking. I guess I’m just a bit Out Of Step.
Embracing Our Differences – The punk rock community taught me at a young age how disgusting racism was. There is a major part of the scene that strives to end social injustice. While I also learned these values from my parents, the scene engrained these beliefs into my head. Being accepting of different races and sexual preferences is a theme that you can find throughout the punk rock and hardcore community. As a teacher, many current events we discuss are about these themes. My passion for teaching tolerance and erasing ignorance in the world is just as strong as my passion for teaching history. These lessons need to be taught.
Questioning Everything – While the punk rock and hardcore community have many different sub-genres, a constant among all of them is to think for yourself and question things. Punk rockers question the establishment, authority, the government, all kinds of things. Some of them do it the wrong way and it turns into more of an anti-establishment, or anti-government type things, but many simply question things before accepting them. Many punk rockers are very educated people. Greg Graffin, singer of Bad Religion holds a PhD and is a professor at UCLA. Dexter Holland of The Offspring was valedictorian of his high school. Our scene is definitely not anti-education. I believe that questioning things, wanting to hear multiple sides, and avoiding bias is crucial when making informed decisions. Whether it is national politics, or debates about the Common Core. I don’t just accept the decisions others make. If I have an opinion I will let it be known. If I have an idea I will let it be heard. No matter how outside of the box it may be. This critical and creative thinking is what we expect from our students. I practice what I preach.
Maintaining a Positive Attitude – Shortly after getting into punk rock and then discovering hardcore bands like 7 Seconds, Bad Brains and Minor Threat, the metalhead in me found the hardcore scene of the mid-90s that those bands inspired awesome. Bands like Earth Crisis, Strife, Snapcase were the new breed of hardcore bands. The sound had evolved, but messages of positivity and unity were common among the hardcore scene. Even today, bands like The Ghost Inside and Stick To Your Guns continue to spread PMA (Positive Mental Attitude). Toby Morse, singer of hardcore band H2O, even speaks to schools about how he has maintained a positive, drug-free lifestyle while being in a touring band for over 20 years. The hardcore scene spawned the Straight Edge movement that embraces an anti-drug lifestyle, influencing young kids to stay away from drugs and alcohol. This scene helps them avoid the peer pressure. The positive aspects of the hardcore scene are so inspiring and I try to inspire my students to stay positive and do good things for people and the world on a daily basis.
I’m 34 years old and I no longer look like a hoodlum (well, maybe on weekends). However, as stated above, punk rock and hardcore music have made me who I am today. The way I approach and view the world of education is through my lens. The lens molded by the scene I grew up in. The scene I’m still a part of. I will always be a part of this scene. This is my life. It is who I am.
I still love going to shows and while I stand in the back now and let the kids have all of the fun, I still get goosebumps when I see the passion and sense of community that exists in the scene. This video from a great band called The Story So Far in 2012 doesn’t look all that different from the above Strife video from 1995. The energy and passion in that room gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.
Our experiences shape who we are. It’s been fun reflecting and reminiscing.
Thanks for reading.