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Nancy Flanagan was a music teacher for many years. After teaching and singing the National Anthem thousands of times,
She says that the National Anthem is a disgrace.
The tune is an old British drinking song.
The lyrics are archaic and almost impossible to remember.
The message is warlike and not reflective of our democratic values.
That’s just a few of her reasons.
She suggests some other songs that would be more appropriate and easier to remember and to sing.
I taught and performed the national anthem every year I was in the classroom. At first, I just taught the notes and rhythms, but stressed the importance of playing it well. My personal preference is a straightforward instrumental version, played at a rapid clip. The longer the song drags out, the more restless the crowd. The meaning shifts from a desire to appreciate our common values to a distraction from whatever it is the audience came for.
Later, I turned learning the national anthem into a humanities lesson, studying the drawbacks to our current anthem andto the land of the free and the home of the brave. There are lots of picture books that present Francis Scott Key as noble patriotic hero, quill in hand as the battle rages in Baltimore Harbor, but added complexity and honesty to a classroom discussion with the mostly white students I was teaching.
I polled my students—what could replace the Star-Spangled Banner? It’s a great lesson for music teachers, K-12, vocal and instrumental—but also those who teach literature and civics. You can analyze the musical elements as well as the lyrics and cultural genesis of any number of potential anthems.
What do you think?