Weaponising Mozart

Roll up, roll up! Observe, ye gentlefolk of the globe, how the UK continues to skip gleefully down ever-stranger corridors of surrealist authoritarianism and ephebiphobia! In a bizarre inversion of certain mechanisms and escapements eviscerated from a clockwork orange, disobedient school pupils are being forced to listen to classical music during detention sessions [via MetaFilter]:

In January it was revealed that West Park School, in Derby in the midlands of England, was “subjecting” (its words) badly behaved children to Mozart and others. In “special detentions,” the children are forced to endure two hours of classical music both as a relaxant (the headmaster claims it calms them down) and as a deterrent against future bad behavior (apparently the number of disruptive pupils has fallen by 60 per cent since the detentions were introduced.)

One news report says some of the children who have endured this Mozart authoritarianism now find classical music unbearable. As one critical commentator said, they will probably “go into adulthood associating great music—the most bewitchingly lovely sounds on Earth—with a punitive slap on the chops.” This is what passes for education in Britain today: teaching kids to think “Danger!” whenever they hear Mozart’s Requiem or some other piece of musical genius.

Personally, I’m less bothered by the choice of music (which indicates little more than the desperate clinging of the chattering classes to pre-Victorian definitions of goodness, virtue and quality) than I am for the increasing parallels between the treatment of children who refuse (or simply fail) to conform to the contorted straight-jacket postures demanded of them by their parent societies, and the treatment of prisoners-of-dubious-legal-status in The War on an Abstract Noun ™. And look at how the subtext of the article, beneath the secretly-admiring hand-wringing over authority-run-amok, worries that classical music might be culturally devalued by this usage. Oh, horrors!

When disaffected kids turn to rioting and civil unrest – in the UK, the US and elsewhere, and soon – these starched authoritarians are the ones who will wonder what could possibly have driven them to such behaviour. What type of ingrates would try to smash the bars of the cage so graciously provided them? After all, it’s all done for their own good*.

[* – By “for their own good” they mean, of course, “for anyone else’s good but theirs”. I was in a really good mood this morning, too. ]

5 thoughts on “Weaponising Mozart”

  1. The teacher who took detentions when I was a kid used to play country and western music – I didn’t think that was part of a wider plot to keep the kids down, just a teacher enjoying being a bit of a bastard to the little shits who daily made his life a living hell (which is, after all, the only possible reason to be a teacher). But, who knows? Maybe we were just the earliest test subjects in some great authoritarian plot to make us conform. Or, and I’m just putting this out there as a possibility, maybe they were just playing music to kids… I dunno, but I did grow up with a bit of a soft spot for Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.

  2. Yeah, limp-wristed handwringing aside, this isn’t exactly a sign of the downfall of western civilization. Let’s be honest, they were still beating children with sticks within living memory.

  3. Oh, it’s hardly the most pressing problem in the world, Jordan, I agree; but it’s also very symptomatic of something deeply rotten at the heart of English culture, at least from where I’m sitting.

    Martin: we both know there’s no conspiracy or grand authoritarian plot! No such thing is necessary when an unspoken subliminal consensus will achieve the same result. 😉

  4. “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

    Don’t think of it as rot, think of it as an interregnum between good ideas.

  5. Here in Canada, I occasionally come across public spaces where they play classical to discourage teens from hanging out (although I hear polkas are better for that); and I always think, “Serve’em right if they get Droogs.” Would seem to apply in this case too.

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