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It’s Time We Got ‘Crazy’

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A Turkish song objecting to a single test as the deciding factor instudents' lives should wake up educators in Turkey and the US.

Geoffrey H. FletcherI RECENTLY RETURNED from a triprafting Idaho's Salmon River with someold college friends. One evening arounda fire, we were singing songs from ourcollege days, and in some cases performingthem in a modern style. Whenone of the group began rapping "Feelin'Groovy" from Simon and Garfunkel,we knew it was time to stop.

I thought about that night when I read an Associated Press story about a foreign punk band named Deli (which translates to "Crazy" in English) being brought to trial in Turkey because they had written a song "bemoaning a high school exam." According to the article, "The punk song is called ‘OSYM,' a Turkish acronym for The Student Selection and Placement Center. That's the institution that decides which students go to a university, based on a three-hour multiple-choice exam held every June." Translated, the lyrics are: "Life should not be a prison because of an exam. I have gotten lost/ You have ruined my future/ I am going to tell you one thing/ Shove that exam…"

The song is a number of years old, but apparently some teenagers recently made a video of the song and put it up on YouTube, where it came to the attention of Turkish officials, who don't like to be criticized. Ironically, all of the band members have passed the exam and are in universities studying various subjects.

While the video is mildly amusing (and once again caused me to lose a certain portion of my life on YouTube), the Turkish punk band has a point: One multiple-choice test should not decide a student's future—in Turkey or in the land of No Child Left Behind, where some states invoke such a policy. The prison Deli refers to is not much of an exaggeration, even in the United States. In 1979, the average 30-year-old American man with a bachelor's degree earned just 17 percent more than a 30-year-old man with a high school diploma. Today, the equivalent gap exceeds 50 percent, and that is with a high school diploma. What happens to kids without high school diplomas because of one test?

What if US students, concerned educators, and parents began the outcry: "Life should not be a prison because of an exam?" What if they invoked one of the most powerful elements of cultural change—music? Union songs like "Joe Hill," songs from Woody Guthrie, and songs more familiar to us boomers like "We Shall Overcome" or "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield had a profound effect on many of us and brought us together around a cause.

Maybe we should bring "Crazy" over here for a round of concerts featuring the OSYM song. Maybe they could appear on American Idol. Maybe Bono could record an English version of "OSYM." Maybe that would get someone's attention before NCLB is reauthorized.

-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial director

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2007 issue of THE Journal.

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