The No Child Left Untested Act — excuse me, No Child Left Behind, or as one teacher/mother/grandmother said, The Our Children Left Out Act —  may be the worst thing that has ever happened to education. Testing has become the centerpiece of schooling, so much so that, as several teachers have said this week, “We don’t teach any more, we just test.” Social studies and science have been eliminated from many schools in favor of intensive bubble-filling, standards have been lowered to accommodate multiple-choice testing, actual learning is just a hoped-for by-product. “Assessment as instruction,” a meaningless bit of gibberish, is the new catchphrase. Months of practice tests have led up to this mad week of all testing all day. The kindergarteners are falling asleep in the middle of the tests. Older students are bored, worried, or depressed, and generally hating school. As the week ends, we are seeing disheartened teachers and angry parents. And those are the ones who are still cheerful enough to come buy books. The majority are staying away.

It is amazing that something everyone agrees is a bad idea — teachers, parents, and kids — has become the norm. All I can think is that the decision-makers are so entirely ignorant of education and the schools that they literally do not know what they are doing. Keep this in mind next time you vote.

So a good rehearsal was just what I needed. And that is what we had. The Bach is coming along well. I even know the notes 😉 The Buck is very fun. Imagine if Gilbert and Sullivan had written for silent films. Last night we did the “Missionary Chant” (hymn)section for the first time, and you don’t have to imagine Sullivan writing hymns, because of course he did. The same guy that wrote the music for “The Pirates of Penzance” wrote “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” now expunged from most hymnals, but still a favorite with many of those old enough to remember it. People at the time felt that he was not a very sincere hymn-writer, but that may have been because of the irregularity of his personal life.

I know nothing about Buck’s personal life, but it was his birthday last night, so we tried to sing his grand opus with, as Orgue suggested, “respect.” I like the piece. I like Gilbert and Sullivan quite a lot, too. But I have to say that there are some parts of the Buck that are hard to sing without humor. The part where we sing “meanwhile” just like “meanwhile, back at the ranch” on a silent film card is almost impossible to sing without a little laughter.

And, after all, the Bach has an entire section on how we must be joyful and praise God  “with solemn glee,” in a very heavy minor oom-pa-pa. So the levity occasioned by Buck’s seriousness balances the somber tone of Bach’s joy. We are working on the solemn glee. If we get it down pat, it might do for both works.

I love it that Chamber Singers is a community choir. We have a music student, but we also have a nanny, a math prof, a psychologist, a bartender, and a  librarian. Several bookstore folks, a couple more academics. And we can all enjoy spending time together making some good music.

The Methodist choir is also filled with community members enjoying time together. They eat together and then have Bible study and then gather for choir (I am at work through most of this, and just come in for the music). It is like hanging out with a big, cheerful family who sing together for fun without any concern over what it sounds like. They never stop talking, they kvetch and joke and carry on and rarely pay any attention to the choir leader. My daughters would hate it, I think, but for me it is a good contrast to the (relaxed) discipline of the Chamber Singers.

Did I say they would hate it? Maybe #2 daughter will enjoy it when she joins us on Maundy Thursday and Easter morning, sight-singing. I volunteered her. Mwah-ha-ha. I may not have spelled that last bit correctly. I see it on other xangas all the time, but haven’t paid proper attention to the spelling.

Am I knitting at all? Yes, a little bit. This is Hopkins, using Wool-Ease sport weight on #4 needles. The basic pattern is Elsabeth Lavold’s Siv, from Viking Patterns for Knitting. The color patterns on the front are from Alice Starmore’s Celtic Collection. I am not showing you the front. This is the back. It is plain gray stockinette. That’s why I don’t show it to you very often. It is not interesting to look at. It is soft and lovely to knit, a pleasant accompaniment to reading, and will be a nice sweater. Not everything has to be exciting, right?