Educating you so you don’t educate yourself

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Winter break is over and bleary-eyed kids all over the City of Minneapolis are rising to alarm clocks and Mom’s admonitions. Soon we’ll all be back in the rhythm of our routine, such as it is, for the remaining 103 days of school.

To celebrate (as this is a very different kind of day when you don’t have to get on that school bus), here is the most unusual educational record we have ever posted here on the Hymies blog, borrowed from a 2014 post.

little red 1little red 2A remarkable relic from China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Songs of the Little Red Guards is a 10″ album from the late 60s with a similar package to the Ella Jenkins and Pete Seeger records American children were putting on their Fisher Price players at the time.

Although sung by a children’s choir, the songs reflect the turmoil of the times, in particular the re-establishment of Mao-ist orthodoxy. Titles such as “Let’s Help Pick Up the Rice Left in the Fields” and “Growing Vegetables for the Armymen’s Families” hint at the legacy of the famine which followed Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Foward while others enforce the Communist Party’s doctrine.

One of the most interesting songs is a tribute to Lei Feng, a relatively unknown soldier whose memoirs were published after his death in 1962 as Lei Feng’s Diary. The book expresses his admiration for Chairman Mao Zedong and the sacrifices he has made for the revolution in the form of selfless acts. The soldier was the subject of a propaganda campaign, and his story became part of the compulsory curriculum in schools.


An iconic poster of Lei Feng

The Red Guard was a student movement which began in 1966 in the middle school attached to Beijing’s Tsinghua University. After receiving recognition from the CCP the group quickly established itself in nearly every school in China. With the Chairman’s personal endorsement at a rally that summer, the group became an essential part of his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Party leadership in Beijing struggled to control the Red Guard, which became increasingly divided into factions as it grew, potentially out of control. The campaign against Capitalist or bourgeoisie remnants became violent in places, where assaults on Chinese cultural relics quickly became assaults on individuals. The People’s Liberation Army began suppressing the Red Guard’s most radical elements in 1967, and it was entirely eliminated, often with brutal force, by the summer of 1968. The Chairman, whose enormous personality cult was greatly enhanced by the Red Guard, was alleged to have a tear in his eye when he last spoke to Red Guard leaders.


A Red Guard poster featuring the watchful Chairman

If you’d like to learn more about the Red Guard or start such an organization in your own school, you will likely enjoy Carma Hinton’s 2003 documentary about the Cultural Revolution, Morning Sun. If you still think it’s a good idea, we have a little red book for you.

This year’s presidential election is historic for many reasons, most notably for lowering the standard of public discourse to previously unimaginable depths. The major party candidates are possibly the least popular in American history. This has inspired some interest in third (and fourth) party candidates, who unfortunately do not seem so appealing if you take a closer look.

The Libertarian and Green Party campaigns were skewered by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight, who reached the conclusion that the lack of media coverage they lament may be doing them a favor.

minority-party-in-americaBy coincidence, we recently came across this middle sixties Folkways album on the subject of third parties. The bulk of The Minority Party in America is taken up by an interview with perennial socialist candidate Norman Thomas, and from it we can only assume his perceived role for the third party in American politics is to be so absolutely boring that one is forced to take a closer look at the major parties before plugging their nose to cast a vote.

witches brew

If you’re old enough, you remember when the gym teacher would take out a big Califone turntable and a crate of albums, and the whole class would do activities along with the music. We can’t recall for certain if one of the records we imagined, moved or danced to was a Hap Palmer, but his albums on Educational Activities Records make us feel like kids again.

The last time we posted one of these was a few years ago, but maybe some of you found the activities so enjoyable you’ve gone back and done them again and again. Witches’ Brew is not as awesome an album as Movin’, but its pretty good.


Line “dead leaves, seaweed…”

Movement: Children pretend to throw ingredients in cauldron

Line: “Stir them in my witches’ brew”

Movement: Children do stirring motion

Line: “I got magic, Alakazamakazoo”

Movement: Make any sudden, scary movement

Fill in the blanks: “If you were making a witches’ brew, what would you put in it?”

List on the board the pairs of things that go together from the lyric. Children read and sing each pair along with the record. The singing is simple, since the pairs are all sung on one note.

Fill in the blank: “Can you think of some other things that go together?”

Variation: Think of some body movements that go together, such as swing and sway, wiggle and jiggle, etc. Then use these to fill in the blanks. Movements are performed as they are sung. And two movements the children want to do are fine.

Educational and enjoyable, here is “The Gravity Song.” It was sampled by Man or Astroman? in “F=GmM(moon)/R2” on their classic EP Your Weight on the Moon, but we prefer this OG jam from Ballads For the Age of Science.

singing science sampler

Beethoven started working on what became his 5th Symphony in 1804. If he’d finished it earlier, it would have supplanted the fourth. It was not debuted until December of 1808, and in the long interim he composed many other works: his Violin Concerto, his Appassionata sonata, three string quartets, his Fourth Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto, and a first draft for his sole opera, Fidelio.

bernstein beethovenThis entertaining LP explores Beethoven’s composing process. In it, Leonard Bernstein provides insight by performing many of the sketches on the piano, as well as with the New York Philharmonic. Think of this as the “alternate takes.”

We are personally very partial to Bernstein’s recordings of the nine symphonies in New York. We are also well-known to be partial to Beethoven altogether, and own several recordings of each symphony. Bernstein’s study on this album reveals his sincere enthusiasm.

This exploration of a single movement touches on many of the remarkable qualities of Beethoven’s oeuvre, in particular the passion which propels his symphonies forward with unbridled passion.

This particular copy is in pretty poor condition, but we imagine there are many out there who will enjoy hearing it regardless. The second side of the album contains the contemporaneous recording of the symphony conducted by Bruno Walter, which can be easily found in much better condition than this copy.


It’s become rare we pick up a copy of The City Pages on our way out of the record shop at the end of the day (unless we’re going to be carving a pumpkin) but this week we read Bryan Miller’s clever¬†portrait of Mystery Science Theater 3000. One of our favorite parts was Bill Corbett’s description of the fun the crew had finding the short films they’d use to round out an episode when the movie was too short. These were the public service programs on subjects like marriage and juvenile delinquency.¬†“They’re like little archaeological digs into mid-20th-century America, and they are pretty tight-assed.”

In the same spirit we’ve often posted educational records here on the Hymies blog (a click on the tag “Educating you so you don’t educate yourself” will line up a cue of posts for you). Other times its songs which touch on subjects like sex education. Peculiar public service records offer a candid look at the past, and are often one of the best rewards for diligent crate digging.

sex education


sex education 2

Today we offer When Your Child Asks About Sex, a mid-sixties LP produced by the Illinois State Medical Board. Today’s listeners are unlikely to get through this album without cringing. We hesitate to inform you the album also comes with a fully illustrated booklet.

Spring break starts for Minneapolis schools this afternoon, and just in time for your trip to the Aloha State … here’s Conversational Hawaiian, narrated and taught by Benjamin Kalanikula Bright.

In addition to important terms tourists may need, like inu paha kakou (“let us drink”) he’ll teach us to say naughty things like honi kaua wikiwiki (“kiss me quickly”) and welakahao (“making whoopie”). This record is a good fifty years old, so no guarantees it will get you laid* next week.


*Heh heh, see what we did there?

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