Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Does your state song reflect contemporary values or conflict with them?

Poll your students (or colleagues or neighbors) and they probably wouldn't know the name of your state song, its melody, or the lyrics even if they knew the name.  But that hasn't stopped controversy surrounding them.  The latest example of that is occurring right now in Maryland.
Image result for maryland my maryland
An official advisory panel has recommended changes to be made to "Maryland, My Maryland," that state's official state anthem, according to a story in today's Washington Post.  Six options are proposed, from replacing it with new lyrics to abandoning any state anthem for ten years.

The reason for the controversy is that the song was written during the Civil War-era, advocates secession, and uses (really) disparaging language to refer to the North.  (You can read the lyrics yourself here.)

Why the fuss about something that most people don't even know exists?  That would be a good question to raise with our students.  Ask them to read the lyrics for your state song.  Ask them to speculate when it was written.  (This would be a good opportunity to practice looking for contextual clues.)  Ask them, are there any images or phrases that some people today would find offensive?  This will give you the chance to connect the song lyrics (a primary source), to the historical period in which it was adopted, to current attitudes.

This link takes you to the lyrics for all 50 states.