The New Syllabus

There’s been a lot made in the news in recent times about systemic issues in our education system. As I understand it, there seems to be a popular trend of negative judgment made by parents against teachers for not “doing their job,” with parents often blaming them for their child’s poor performance at school.

Now I’m not a parent, so from that perspective I can only watch from the sidelines. But one of my strengths is having strong opinions on things I know little about.

Hot Jazz Jubile

And I gotta say, I think I’m on the parents’ side with this one. Because although I’m not a parent, I am an adult (more or less). And as an adult, I understand how difficult the world can be. Not only do you have to work hard, you also have all the distractions available in the digital age—YouTube, Facebook, not to mention emotionally charged TV like The New Housewives of New Jersey (will Melissa and Teresa ever mend their friendship?!!). My point is, who has time to raise a child properly with all this going on?

So it seems fair to say it’s not the parents’ fault if their kid is a little underdeveloped or starved for attention. And it seems a natural conclusion that it’s up to the teacher to pick up the slack. Furthermore, as some parents like to remind us, it is they who essentially pay teachers’ salaries. And so we gotta make those parents happy with their child’s progress, so schools can get that much-needed funding.

But have no fear! My moniker is, after all, Professor, and so as as an under-qualified but over-confident educator, I’ve come up with a groundbreaking solution to this modern day conundrum. A way to make both parents and teachers happy.


It’s a simple approach. Let’s redefine the word achievement. Let’s move the goalposts of success.

I mean, let’s think about it: children’s shortcomings are not their fault. So rather than point out any perceived weaknesses they might have and how they could work on them to improve, these students should be celebrated. Let’s praise them for who they are (not what they could be).

With this new system, students get good grades, schools get their funding, and parents will be satisfied they’re doing a great job raising their kids!

And so, because it’s a topic relevant to this marvellous publication, let’s start by looking at music education. I’d like to suggest some new “inclusive” language for our young music students.

So here we go with the Professor’s New Music Syllabus:


-A student plays really out of tune? How lovely! We tell the parents their child has a unique approach to pitch.

Your drummer plays out of time? Give them an A+! Let’s praise the student for their abstract approach to the beat.

-Your vocal student doesn’t bother learning lyrics to their songs? How creative! Let’s laud their jazzy scatting skills.


-Your student is constantly late to lessons? High Distinction! Celebrate their creative interpretation of punctuality.

-And if your student doesn’t show up at all for their lessons? How avant-garde! You can can tell the parents the child has a revolutionary approach to learning.

So teachers, feel free to take this syllabus to your next curriculum meeting and pass it on. With this groundbreaking approach, parents, schools, teachers…everybody wins! Well, maybe not the kid. But with a long term education molding young minds, focusing on a balanced output of low-competence and high-confidence, they’re a shoo in for Congress.


Reedman extraordinaire Adrian Cunningham is the leader of Professor Cunningham and his Old School Jazz Band, based in New York City. Adrian Cunningham was voted in a 2017 Hot House Jazz Magazine readers’ poll the Best Alto Sax Player in New York. His most recent album is Duologue, issued on the Arbors Jazz label. Visit him on the world wide web:

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