The Sociopolitical Side of Music

Yes, ‘n’ how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

-Bob Dylan, Blowin’ in the Wind

The above lyrics probably sound familiar to most people. Written in opposition to the Vietnam War, Bob Dylan wrote the famous song ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in 1962. Music has long served as a political platform, and students in Tyler Smith’s U.S. History class studied this and how media and entertainment became such powerful forces in American culture in the second half of the 20th century during a recent project block. Students investigated six decades of American culture through the lens of popular music. They explored this music and used a set of essays to depict and analyze prominent social political issues and how they interplayed with music at the time. Excerpts from their class readings are included below:

Music has always kept company with American wars. But wars also create their unique antagonists who transform their empathy, concern, anger, and other emotions into poetry, prose, or in our time, popular music. This was particularly true of the war in Vietnam. Given this era’s unique historical circumstances, the musical soundscape to the Vietnam War was strikingly different from the music that accompanied World War II.

The Sixties and Protest Music by Kerry Candaele

It’s important to recognize that while hip-hop is its own entity, it’s still just a part of a greater movement when it comes to speaking out against those injustices. Nothing and no one can stand alone in this fight.

Exploring the Intersection between Hip-Hop and Social Justice by Greg Whitt and Keith Reid-Cleveland

“My hope is that music can serve as captivating introduction to major issues and themes of the time periods, including counterculture in the 1950s, feminism in the 1970s and international issues in the 1980s, that we can use as a jumping off point and reference for the rest of the year. It would be hard to talk about time periods without talking about how media begins to affect and drive cultural and political movements,” comments Tyler.

At White Mountain, we inspire life-long learners that are curious beyond high school and college. Research has shown that critical thinking and communication skills are key to life-long and academic success (see our Essential Skills and Habits). View more of our course offerings here to see how we incorporate these skills and others into our classrooms.

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