Frank Zappa: Schools Train People To Be Ignorant With Style
Frank Zappa was rock and roll’s sharpest musical mind and most astute social critic. He was the most prolific composer of his age, and he bridged genres – rock, jazz, classical, avant-garde and even novelty music – with masterful ease.
Zappa not only challenged himself musically, he also made it a point to challenge the status quo on many fronts. As a plainspoken curmudgeon, he confronted the corrupt politics of the ruling class and held the banal and decadent lifestyles of his countrymen to unforgiving scrutiny. He pioneered the artist-run independent record label, launching his Straight and Bizarre imprints back in 1969 and later founding the Zappa, DiscReet and Barking Pumpkin labels.
As both a social critic and a lyricist Frank knew how to make a statement. He was articulate, honest, spoke from his heart and left no stone unturned artistically or otherwise. Even by today’s standards his lyrics are controversial. Starting with the anti-establishment/anti-war zeitgeist of the 1960s, the message of his music changed over time, criticizing the United States government, religious conservatism, televangelists, and homophobia. While some of his lyrics superficially appeared to be blatantly anti-Semitic, sexist, racist, and/or homophobic, the keen ear will detect the ultimately satirical nature of the songs.
Frank was no fan of politicians of any stripe; Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were favorite targets. Two live albums, Broadway the Hard Way and Frank Zappa in New York, are good showcases of his politically-informed songs. His snark was not restricted to Republicans; Democrats like Jesse Jackson were also targets. That most of his political music criticized Republicans is more evident of the party’s political dominance of the 1960s, 70s and 80s than any personal political convictions (he considered running for president in the 1980s)—the cause he championed was democracy.
Although Frank was never elected president, his presence and wit live on through footage of his profound public speaking ability. What he said in the video below still holds true for far too many of the school systems across the industrial world.
“Schools train people to be ignorant, with style. They give you the equipment that you need to be a functional ignoramus. American schools do not equip you to deal with things like logic; they don’t give you the criteria by which to judge between good and bad in any medium or format; and they prepare you to be a usable victim for military-industrial complex that needs manpower. As long as you’re just smart enough to do a job and just dumb enough to swallow what they feed you, you’re gonna be alright. But if you go beyond that then you’re gonna have these grave doubts that give you stomach problems, headaches…make you want to go out and do something else. So, I believe that schools mechanically and very specifically try and breed out any hint of creative thought in the kids that are coming out.”