Music manipulation

It's got to be fun. If you want young people to learn about something, package it with humor or flashy graphics or music.

Want science lessons to be appealing? Start off with a silly study about something kids can relate to: potato chips (See story). Want college students to think twice before chugging a few beers? Expose them to a website that weaves information together with jokes about the beer belly (See story).

Let's hope the MTV approach works, because serious messages are depending on it. Last week, Mothers Against Drunk Driving launched its new multimedia presentation, In Real Life, at a high school in Miami. Movie and music- video clips are the backdrop for sobering discussions about pressures, choices, and consequences.

There are some mixed messages when it comes to adults choosing music for teens, though. In certain situations, they can make it seem like anything but fun.

At my local subway and bus terminal, the transit police recently started piping in Boston Pops and Gershwin tunes during the hours just after school lets out. Police say it has a calming effect in a place that often sees fights among teens. But the cluster of students I talked to mocked the music. One even said, perhaps with exaggerated bravado, that it made him more likely to fight. They should play hip- hop or reggae, the girls insisted.

I asked if they had exposure to classical music in school – or any music education. Nope. Reid Eblan, a West Roxbury student, ran with that question: "Maybe if we knew what classical music meant, we'd feel OK about it."

There's nothing wrong with using music to make lessons fun, or to set a certain tone in a public area. But I couldn't help but wonder why we still haven't found a stable place in our public schools for education about music itself.

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