Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

1964

Tom Paxton records the song ‘What did you learn in school today’? 

This year, a young songwriter and singer called Tom Paxton recorded a long play with 15 songs in Elektra Records. He was 26 years old, and this was the second recording of his career as a musician. In the middle of side 1 there was a short song (less than two minutes long) that provided an acid and satirical critique to the ideological function of schools. The title of the song is a question that most parents - partly because of curiosity, partly because often we cannot find a better way to begin a conversation -ask our children on the way home after each school day: ‘What Did You Learn in School Today’.  

The irreverent child of the song responds, among other things, that Washington never tells lies, that everyone is free, that the government must be strong, and that is always right and never wrong. The song quickly became an icon among protesters of the Vietnam War, and it became very popular in many countries when it was also recorded by singers like Pete Seeger. The song is certainly short, but its catchy music and its mordant lyrics questioning the school lessons immediately touched a cord among the youth.

What did you learn in school today?
(Words and Music by Tom Paxton)

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers seldom die.
I learned that everybody's free.
And that's what the teacher said to me.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned our government must be strong.
It's always right and never wrong.
Our leaders are the finest men.
And we elect them again and again.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that war is not so bad.
I learned of the great ones we have had.
We fought in Germany and in France.
And some day I might get my chance.
That's what I learned in school today.
That's what I learned in school.

Sources:  

http://www.kramerskorners.com/Paxton/lyrics/wdylis.htm 

http://www.tompaxton.com 

DS 

2004

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