Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The School of (Punk) Rock

Shortly after Penelope Spheeris' movie, "The Decline of Western Civilization" came out, I decided that I needed to get away from the Hollywood/L.A. music scene, which had already lost much of its appeal for me anyway. Partly motivated by the instinct for self-preservation, I went back to college and earned my degree in Philosophy. I decided to become an elementary school teacher. As a kid who entered school speaking only Spanish, I can remember how painful it was when my teachers would get frustrated with me. I thought I might be able to help spare some children that anguish.

People who knew me back in the old punk rock days are sometimes surprised to find out that Alice Bag became a schoolteacher. But the funny thing I've realized is that many, many punks are naturally drawn to education as a career. I suppose I shouldn't "out" them here...being a schoolteacher is still not considered very cool. But trust me when I say that you'd be surprised at just how many of us there are in classrooms all across the country. Some singers who punk fans would consider really "hardcore punk" are in fact shaping young minds daily. Like Dewey Finn says in School of Rock: "I'm a teacher. All I need are minds for molding."

Here's a small video clip that was part of a PBS documentary from some years back that features me and Teresa Covarrubias (of the 80's punk band, The Brat) in the classroom, back when we worked together at an inner city school in L.A. Click on the thumbnail photo to launch a Windows Media Viewer file from Chicanas In Tune.To once again quote the great Dewey Finn, "Your kids have all really touched me, and I'm pretty sure that I've touched them."


motomama said...

I became a school librarian. Talk about stereotypes! I also know a handful of people who became schoolteachers. Then there are the punks who became lawyers! I do think punk rock stays with you in some form or another, wherever life takes you. For a lot of us, I think that helping others in some form (becoming educators) is a calling straight from that DIY ethic.

MrBaliHai said...

Timely, Alice. I just posted last night about recently getting reacquainted with 3 old punk friends who're all academics.

I'm an educator too, albeit a corporate one.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Alice Bag and Teresa from the Brat taught a class together? Why couldn't I be younger (probably the first time I've wished that!) and have been in your classroom...sigh...

Jenny Lens said...

Punk, to me, was always about educating people there are other ways of living, of resolving issues, of creating music and art other than what/how we've been taught. Many people drawn to punk were, for the most part, bright, caring, passionate people who wanted to inform people about aspects of modern life that were troublesome and needed attention. What better way than to educate others?

I was a college and adult ed teacher when I picked up a camera and started to both document and live the early punk life. When the administrator objected to my teaching geriatic [elders] with a hickey on my neck, I figured it was time to dye my hair magenta and stop teaching for awhile.

Later I supported myself as a computer graphics trainer/professor at many training centers and colleges/universities throughout the '90's. I sadly left it because everyone figured because they had Photoshop and Quark Xpress, they didn't need to know why you scan at 72 dpi for the net, 300 for photos and 600 for line art. They used whatever setting the scanner was last used.

It was clearly an indication that I was teaching the wrong subjects and I needed to get back to my speciality: my photos. The upside is I'm very proficient with the computer, which was always the plan so I could work on my pix.

It was also a very sad commentary on the state of education these days. Parents bully teachers into giving their college student children a free pass. People need skills and need to love learning. But that's for another day.

Right now I'm having fun sharing and teaching what I know to those who check out my site and help me. There's lots of ways of teaching BEYOND academics. However, I can't wait to hit the college trail again and present MY version of all that is punk. It's very distressing classes are being taught by people who weren't even there nor bother to consult those of us who created the punk revolution. Hopefully my teaching days are still ahead of me! After I sort out my archive, have a few exhibitions, create a documentary or two, several books . . . all in a day's work!

Anonymous said...

i agree with jenny lens, being into punk went hand in hand with modern ideals and forecasting new ways of living into the future. it was actually a stepping stone to bigger and more interesting things, of course if you stopped doing the things that were bad for you. for those of us who survived the concrete jungle of sex, drugs and rock n roll, we now have good music, art and a piece of mind to go with it.

dw said...

i knew that Alice was a teacher about 8 yrs ago. I thought how damn lucky those kids were, to be taugh by her. alice is an awesome person. Congrats to you ALice, that you can mold young minds!