Who took the music out?

When Florida schoolteacher/musician J.P. Taylor first told me about a book-in-progress consisting mostly of revised song lyrics presented as poems, I was skeptical. Why would somebody want to take a bunch of catchy science songs and strip them of their music?

I eventually came to a better understanding of what he was up to, though. Here (from the foreword of the book, I See The Light, which is now available at Lulu.com) is my attempt to explain it.

J.P.’s music helps students learn and recall foundational content in topics ranging from the cardiovascular system to tropical rainforests, which is great. The problem is, many people — many teachers, even — think that memorization is the ONLY thing that educational songs are good for.

They’re wrong. Content-rich songs can inspire interest in a topic previously perceived to be dull. They can spark discussions of what is meant by particular lyrics, prompting careful consideration of shades of meaning and relationships among concepts. They can even stimulate students to write their own songs.

So how can the point be made that educational songs are not solely a memorization tool? Without the music, songs are poems, and most people understand that poems merit reflection and analysis. By re-imagining his songs as poems — by focusing our attention on the words — I think J.P. is reminding us of the power of these words to engage us on multiple levels.

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