Ten Tunes for Tuesday, 29th January: Back to School!

January is drawing to a lazy close, and for those of a certain age, that means that the greatest of horrors has returned for another year: the holidays are over and it’s time to head back to the classroom.

Whether you’re a student heading back for another term, a recent leaver preparing for your university experience, or a teacher dreading the first day back at work, we’ve compiled an eclectic list of songs to get you through the next ten weeks of hard study.

You can find the playlist right here, but if you want the videos that go with them, you’ll have to read on. Who knows? You might even learn something!

1. Another Brick In The Wall – Richard Cheese

Okay, let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. When I asked friends and family for advice on this playlist, this was immediately the first track they thought of, or at least the original was. Wanting to avoid blatant cliches, I was pretty reluctant to add it to the list, not to mention the potential of the mass approval to reflect exactly what the song is rebelling against – falling into line with the establishment and what others want of you.

And then I found this, and I knew that this was the only way I could fit it in and have a clear conscience. Cheese’s cover is brilliant. You can practically smell the Brylcreem, and even though he’s not exactly underground these days, I bet it wasn’t what you were expecting!

2. Caught In The Crowd – Kate Miller-Heidke

This tale of schoolyard friendship and betrayal is an award-winner, and formed the basis of a NSW Government anti-bullying campaign, but apart from that, it sums up one of the biggest challenges of being at school – knowing when to speak up for and against your peers. Almost everyone can remember the kid who was most bullied at school; some even carry memories about that time when they had the opportunity to stop the cycle and didn’t. That’s why this song is important in this list – kids need to know that standing up for others is the right thing to do, and that sometimes not doing so can haunt people for years after.

3. Dear Science – Seth Sentry

Warning! This one has some NSFW language!

While this one isn’t obviously about school, it does address the things we need education for, namely hoverboards. Kids, you need to go to school and study hard because there are a significant number of people still longing to live out their Back to the Future fantasies, and you could be the key to unlocking this amazing piece of transport technology. Listen to your teacher, keep up the study, and you could be the legend who creates the one thing the entire Western world is craving.

4. Countess Bathory’s Finishing School For Girls – The Crooked Fiddle Band

I confess, this is only in this particular list because of what it’s called. There’s nothing particularly educational about it outside the title, but it’s still a magnificent instrumental piece, galloping along at a remarkable pace, transporting you back to a time when school was a little bit tougher than it is today.

5. One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces – Ben Folds Five

Another song about schoolyard bullying, except this one is a glorious post-graduation up-yours to those jerks that dragged everyone else down. And when you grow up to be Ben Folds, that can only be the best revenge of all, right?

If you’re still at school and bullies are getting you down, remember that you’re probably going to be the one who grows up to be awesome.

6. This Isn’t Hogwarts – Hank Green

Ah, the ol’ classroom daydream. Almost everyone has indulged in one or two of these little fantasies during their school years, even continuing into the workplace on occasion. Hank Green has written a tune that not only seems at least a little bit influenced by The Ramones; it also perfectly encompasses the delight that comes with Harry Potter fandom and the lack of inspiration provided by drab school environments.

Fun Fact: Green isn’t just about wizardry and rock; he’s also an online educator, through his YouTube program, SciShow, proving that he doesn’t just write songs about the problems with the modern education system, he’s willing to contribute to it in an attempt to make it a little more awesome.

7. Classroom Blues – Random feat. Dr Awkward

This was a magnificently random find through Spotify, reflecting the challenges faced by teachers, especially in lower socio-economic situations. The commitment of a great teacher to their students is incredibly important in getting them to engage with their education. The focus on test results, as demonstrated in this song and by the recent NAPLAN phenomenon, is concerning.

This track is actually from the first of a series of albums about the challenges faced by teachers, and is definitely worth a listen, if only to better understand just how important a job they play in shaping our children’s future.

8. Five and Ten – Washington

While all the other songs in this list have been about school and how that environment shapes us, this song focuses on the education that comes from those in our home. Megan Washington sings about the significant influence of her older sister on her life and learning, proving that school isn’t the only place we can find an education.

N.B. The vocals in this video are a little bit soft, but it’s the best one available on YouTube, and significantly adorable. However, if you want to listen to it in better quality, follow the Spotify link to the playlist!

9. It Started With A Kiss – Paul Kelly

You may have noticed that I regularly throw a Paul Kelly track into my playlists, and the reason for that is simple: he has recorded a song for almost every topic imaginable. While this particular tune is a cover of a Hot Chocolate song, it is significantly less cheesy than the original, instead imbuing the track with a sense of pathos, awkwardness and vulnerability that often tinges the memory of schoolyard crushes.

10. The Car Song – The Cat Empire

This little ditty not only has a magnificent video clip, it also has a tricky, double-sided moral: study hard at school and you can be a lawyer and make a stack of money; or take your time because someday it’ll all work out just fine. The general consensus among my family and friends seems to be that a little bit of both is the ideal philosophy, but really, why are we still discussing this song and not dancing to it? (Go on, have a little boogie in your seat while you’re studying. You know you want to.)

*****

What songs did you use to get through your school years? And if you’re still at school, what songs are the kids pumping these days? If you’re a teacher, what songs do you use in the classroom? Share all your learnin’ with us in the comments below, pass us a note on Twitter, or carve your initials into our Facebook wall!

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