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Va. students' Occupy song draws criticism

Wednesday - 1/4/2012, 4:08pm  ET

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - A foundation that works to inspire schoolchildren's creativity through music has clarified its guidelines after being criticized for leading a group of Virginia third-graders to perform a song promoting the Occupy movement.

Students participating in Kid Pan Alley's program performed the song, called "Part of the 99," during an October concert at Woodbrook Elementary in Albemarle County. The concert culminated a songwriting workshop led by the foundation.

"There's no question in my mind that (Kid Pan Alley is) firmly committed to teaching kids, and they are not interested in a political agenda," Albemarle County schools spokesman Phil Giaramita told The Daily Progress ( http://bit.ly/wBQQ0f) for a story published Wednesday. "Going forward we are going to be a little more sensitized to (content) . We're confident that Kid Pan Alley has set the right boundaries and are committed to enforcing that."

According to WHSV-TV ( http://bit.ly/Ah4TRm) , the song says: "Some people have it all, but they still don't think they have enough. They want more money, a faster ride. They're not content, never satisfied. Yes, they're the 1 percent."

The song goes on to talk about life after the "bubble burst."

"I lost my money, lost my pride, lost my home. Now I'm part of the 99."

In a statement, Kid Pan Alley Executive Director Pat Rogers said the group has clarified its guidelines for lyrical content.

"Kid Pan Alley does not promote nor condone any personal or political agenda. As a result, our programming over the years has consistently received high praise and commendation from children, parents and schools," the statement said. "Our sole mission has been and continues to be to inspire and empower children to work together to become creators of their own music and to rekindle creativity as a core value in education."

Rogers said future songwriting facilitators will be trained to steer students away from controversial content.

"We've written probably over 2,000 songs with a little over 30,000 school kids, and this is the one point where we've had an issue of this type," she said.

Giaramita added that when the song was written, the Occupy movement was not the hot-button issue that it is today.

"In today's environment, January 2012, that is certainly true, but I don't think when it was written that was necessarily true," he said.

The foundation's website says ideas for song topics come exclusively from the students during the several-day songwriting workshops and are written with little input from an adult facilitator.

Jefferson Area Tea Party Chairwoman Carole Thorpe said she was skeptical that the lyrics to the song had come exclusively from third-graders.

"Even (after) a cursory glance at the lyrics to this song, I find it hard to believe that an 8-year-old would have something to say about the bubble bursting," Thorpe said. "I know it says on their website that the ideas come from the kids, but I would question how much input the facilitator had to do with writing the song."

Thorpe said she doesn't think political agendas should be promoted in the creations of third-graders under any context.

"I wouldn't promote a Tea Party song in a third-grade classroom any more than I would any other political ideology," she said.

The song also has drawn criticism from some conservative bloggers.

School Board Chairman Stephen Koleszar said he is against censoring student work for content, except in cases of violent material, and he said those cases should be rare.

"Sometimes, when kids are writing things, they say things that are controversial. I don't think we need to be censoring what the kids are writing," he said. "One of my fears is that, when these kind of controversies come up, are we going to stop doing what's right for kids because we get a little flak from the blogosphere?"

Students must have permission from their parents to participate in Kid Pan Alley.

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Information from: The Daily Progress, http://www.dailyprogress.com


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