A Wife and Seventeen Children…

Gingerbread and musical torture.

Here’s an interesting bit of rambling from that most entertaining of linguists Tenser, said the Tensor. Or at least it’s interesting to me because of a rather stupid activity I was forced to partake in way back in the good old days of 1989.

Back in that first year of high school the year eights were subjected to a class called ‘Music’. This wasn’t any kind of conventional music class – we didn’t get to play any instruments – and neither was it a singing class – that was ‘Singing’. No, this was sitting around in the room at the back of the gym, listening to tapes while being yelled at by a nun. There was so little educational content involved that I strongly suspect it was nothing but timetable filler to get the year eights away from the rest of the staff for a while.

In any case one of the endlessly stupid activities we had to do in ‘Music’ was learn about beat. Any decent curriculum seeking to teach kids about beat would invest in some bongo drums and let them at it, but this kind of creativity wasn’t allowed by Sister Lynn – after all, drumming reeks of paganism. No, we had to march in a big circle around the room in time to a tape apparently (to judge by the whole jingly-jangly-fuzzy-wuzzy-Barney-the-Dinosaur ‘feel’ of the recording) aimed at 6 year olds. And join in.

The words we had to chant?

I left my wife in New Orleans,
With 45 cents and a can of beans,
And I though it was right <pause>,
Right <pause>,
Right for my country,

(When repeated over and over ad nauseum while marching around the room in a circle the “right” and “left”s should fall on the appropriate footsteps. You do a little skip on “woopsidoo” to reset, otherwise you’d end up on the wrong feet the next time round – just so you know).

The parallels to the Gingerbread jingle are obvious.

As is the effect this bizzare activity had on growing minds – it’s 16 years later and I still recall the damn thing word for word!

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