What the Kids Did in Music Class Was Shocking!

What the Kids Did in Music Class Was Shocking! November 3, 2017

Ignatius H. Lanzarone, or someone who uses that name, is the cartoonist for The Daisy, one of America’s best high school journals. That Mr. Lanzarone was cartooning in 1910 should not distract you from his point: some kids in music class were up to hi-jinks, misdeeds that technology has only made worse.

Study his cartoon. Note that “some” were acting up, I assume not Mr. Lanzarone. When they should have been studying the composition or the history of music, these Euclid-Eastern lads were reading other books. Insert a smart phone and you could get the same image today.

Somewhere I have a disciplinary report from my high school days that accuses me of sitting in the back of the room reading novels (Asimov! Tolkien! Adams!) behind my math book.

This might be true.

If there was a Sabbath School in 10 BC (or BCE if you are pretending that makes the dating neutral), Peter probably hid some other text behind his scroll.

Yet. Yet. Yet.

Let me gently suggest that I was wrong and Mr. Lanzarone was right to expose this behavior. A bit like Augustine with the pears, reading another book in class is not the most socially serious of sins, but it may do a good bit of harm to us.

How is that even possible?

We can begin by the fact that the lad in question is checked out of class. Even if the teacher is as boring as homemade sin, this is not good. While the teacher should not be dull, his dullness does not justify my rudeness! As anybody who has ever performed knows, a hot audience makes a better performance. Maybe if the lasses and lads of Euclid would perk up, the teacher would improve!

The lad reading his penny dreadful is being a bit dreadful to himself by missing the class around him, including the students. While Miss Genung is answering a question, Mr Nose in a Book is tuned out. Our fellows student, Miss Genuing (we learn from The Daisy), is a bright soul and deserves our attention. She might be answering a question or she might be listening. We could show solidarity with her and listen along side her. The habit of tuning out other people to entertain oneself can become a habit that harms.

Finally, one should notice that the lad has decided what he needs to learn over and against those who have created the curriculum. Perhaps he is right and instead of a real book, he has been given a textbook (books written by committee). Even so, there is content that he will miss in favor of content he wants.

Here is a safe guess: content will be acquired in any case. If Mr Nose in a Book is reading up on the Brooklyn Dodgers in music class, he is gaining information that he surely will get later. He has the desire. What about the music content that would introduce him to new pleasures he cannot grasp just yet? If he is not disciplined enough to do the work, he will stay stuck in childish pursuits.

Higher joys require harder work. Pleasures and happiness that do not come “naturally” to us can be cultivated by some work. The music he does not like today can become his favorite tomorrow: laddish pleasures are for a few years, but adult joys are for life.

So I can testify: the mathematics I did not learn had to be learned later (mathematical logic!) when I could not just muscle my way through the final by cramming. If I had attended to my math teachers, gaps would have been filled and what I did not like at the time might have become a pleasure. I know this, because a few years later I was disciplined enough to gain that pleasure.

I have left aside the issue of disobedience to legitimate authority, but that too is a problem. Teachers need respect for their jobs. Mr Lanzorone was right to expose our stealing pears in the orchard of knowledge.

God bless you, Ignatius Lanzarone. May your soul Rest In Peace.


Is this Mr Lanzarone? If so, his world changed a great deal from 1891 to 1968. He survived two World Wars, a Great Depression, and changing times. There were great improvements, but also decline. If you cannot see both reading The Daisy, then I feel sorry for you.

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