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Pondering with Patterson: Education and rock and roll have always coexisted

“Damn the man, save the empire!” Rock and roll and rebellion go hand in hand. Many other themes in classic rock songs include breaking free, winning, not holding back, etc. Rock and roll is not limited, it hits on various different elements and themes including sweetness, love, pain, all of it. In terms of damning the man, however, and with Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper as representatives, education has been questioned and painted as flawed by rock music. Nonetheless, many rock singers have taken to higher education, allowing the principle and privilege of attaining higher education to remain dignified.

Pink Floyd teaches, “We don’t need no education / We don’t need no thought control / No dark sarcasm in the classroom.” Important lessons are found within discovering the education system. Many rock singers discovered these lessons to be enticing, able to inspire the rebellion spirit and pursue education.

A pre-Pinkerton Rivers Cuomo of Weezer had attended Harvard and dropped out to finish recording and tour. He re-enrolled, eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In an interview for The Harvard Crimson, when asked about why he returned, Cuomo shared, “I always have a tough time with ‘why’ questions. There are probably several reasons for coming back in 2004. One of them was definitely wanting to find somebody.”

Rivers Cuomo is not the only rocker to have a degree from Harvard. Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine took to Harvard following high school. During his time at Harvard, he learned guitar and majored in political science. He shared his fear of “wasting my time in the stacks of Widener Library when I should be spreading the message, playing barrooms across Ohio.” After graduation, Rage Against The Machine was born.

Harvard does not draw the line for rock singers. Boston’s Tom Scholz received a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology following high school. Jim Morrison of The Doors took to UCLA and graduated from film school, and Brian May received his undergraduate in astrophysics before Queen and his Ph.D. in 2007.

Brian May even found a way to draw a personal connection with his studies and music. Completing his thesis, “A Survey of Radial Velocities In The Zodiacal Dust Cloud,” he paid thought to “Woodstock.” In a 2018 interview with NPR, he noted, “when Joni Mitchell said, ‘we are stardust; we are golden,’ she was right. We are stardust. And I find that quite an amazing thing to think about. The material of our body did come from the insides of stars. It was made in the insides of stars.” It is very rock and roll to validate astrophysics with a Joni Mitchell song.

Rock and roll inspires. It fuels the “damn the man” spirit, equally fueling the spirit of inspiration. These lessons from rock and roll about education are found in both lyric and example. Education as a concept in rock justifiably has been raged against and will continue to be, but rock and roll singers have shown that it is possible to drive the rock and roll spirit while pursuing school. 

Lauren Patterson is a sophomore studying journalism. Please note that the views and ideas of columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Lauren? Tweet her @lpaatt. 

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