Education is often associated with formal education. However, people are constantly learning with and without such systems. As a result, education is a universal experience. One that was relevant in the past, one that remains relevant in the present, and one that will presumably remain relevant in the future. Unsurprisingly, artists have released numerous songs about education.
Here are 20 of the best songs about education:
20. “Learn My Lesson” – Daughtry
People can learn the wrong things. For instance, Daughtry touches on that topic in “Learn My Lesson.” He sings about how love leads to the pain of being separated from love. However, Daughtry refuses to give up on love despite how he chooses to frame the topic in the song.
19. “High School” – Kelsea Ballerini
Meanwhile, this song sees Kelsea Ballerini singing about someone stuck in high school in an emotional sense rather than a physical sense. The character’s best days were back in high school. As a result, he has latched onto it while everyone else has moved on, thus preventing himself from growing up even as he is growing old. Sadly, this kind of thing isn’t that uncommon.
18. “College Kids” – Relient K
Recent decades have seen a strong expectation for people to go to college. This isn’t necessarily good because not everyone will benefit from the experience. That is particularly true in countries where a college education comes at a hefty cost. The narrator of “College Kids” is one such individual because his college experience is downright woeful. For example, he has become poor and indebted. Similarly, he is learning nothing from his college classes. On top of these things, the narrator was pushed to go to college by his parents, which is the kind of thing that builds resentment.
17. “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” – Ramones
Punk started as an anti-establishment movement. Given that, interested individuals should have no problem guessing what Ramones had to say about the formal education system in “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.” It isn’t the most sophisticated song ever recorded, but it is iconic for a reason.
16. “Learning the Game” – Buddy Holly
People aren’t just automatically born with everything we need to know about interacting with others. Instead, we learn much of it through our experiences. Some of those are pleasant. Others, not so much. “Learning the Game” is an excellent example of the latter because it focuses on the painful parts of romantic relationships.
15. “Fifteen” – Taylor Swift
Speaking of which, “Fifteen” has a broader but still somewhat similar focus. After all, it sees the narrator looking back on herself at the titular age. Unsurprisingly, a fair amount of the focus is on teenage romance, as shown by the descriptions of her intense emotions and naive assumptions. That said, one can interpret “Fifteen” as an uplifting song. It acknowledges how painful heartbreak can be at that age but also how most things will heal with time. As such, “Fifteen” won’t be forever.
14. “Beauty School Dropout” – Frankie Avalon
Famously, Frankie Avalon was a teen idol in the 1950s and 1960s. Over time, he started taking acting roles. Thanks to that, Avalon eventually played the Teen Angel responsible for singing “Beauty School Dropout” in the film adaptation of Grease. This song encouraged Frenchy to return to high school, though it took some time for its message to sink in.
13. “Black Gold” – Esperanza Spalding
It isn’t uncommon for people to draw strength from their ancestors. Esperanza Spalding’s song is an excellent example. For starters, it tells black boys and men that they matter, thus explaining its name. Furthermore, the song encourages them to look toward their ancestors from pre-colonial Sub-Saharan Africa, which remains an often understudied and underappreciated part of world history in the West.
12. “Education” – Pearl Jam
At some point, people have to be willing to question their education if they want to take control of the process. After all, they can’t know what they are doing unless they think about what they are doing. As a result, “Education” is the kind of song that should resonate with young adults fresh from childhood but still discovering who they are. That said, introspection is something everyone can engage in at any time. Indeed, one can make a strong argument that we should continue doing so throughout our lives because it is hard to imagine that we will arrive at all the correct answers for ourselves the first time.
11. “Getting Better” – The Beatles
Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon left notable impressions on “Getting Better.” The former was the one who came up with the initial idea for the song while walking his dog. Meanwhile, the latter was the one who contributed the part about overcoming his past as someone who hit his significant other. “Getting Better” is a reminder that education doesn’t just end with school. Instead, it is a lifelong process for people seeking to improve themselves in one way or another.
10. “School’s Out” – Alice Cooper
Work-life balance matters. Someone can spend their life doing nothing but serious things. However, most people wouldn’t find them very satisfying. Arguably, school breaks are practice runs for figuring out the optimal work-life balance. Regardless, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” is a joyous song that remains as enjoyable in the present as it was in the past.
9. “Rat Race” – The Specials
People who do well in formal education aren’t necessarily learning anything. Instead, they might just be gaming the system the same way they do everything else to advance themselves through life. Of course, the cynical might say that this is the point rather than an unintended side effect of formal education in the first place. In any case, it seems safe to say that the narrator of “Rat Race” has met more than one such individual, who he didn’t find very likable. Considering the full context, it is hard to blame him.
8. “School Day” – Chuck Berry
“School Day” does a great job of describing how monotonous school can be before contrasting that with music as a soothing balm for the aches and pressures resulting from it. This song is one of the singles that established Chuck Berry’s reputation as the Father of Rock and Roll. “School Day” reached the number five position on the Billboard Hot 100 while topping the R&B Best Sellers chart when it came out in 1957.
7. “High School Never Ends” – Bowling For Soup
Bowling for Soup has a reputation for comedy. Despite this, they sometimes showed considerable insight. For instance, “High School Never Ends” is a reminder that people can’t count on the bad parts of high school to end as soon as they graduate. Simply put, it isn’t isolated from society. If anything, it is a microcosm of society, meaning the ills of one are often mirrored by the ills of the other. “High School Never Ends” focuses on shallow materialism. Unfortunately, the same is true for many other issues.
6. “Learn to Fly” – Foo Fighters
“Learn to Fly” is a fun reminder that people can interpret the music they listen to as they please. Dave Grohl stated he wasn’t inspired by anything particularly deep when he wrote the song’s lyrics. He wanted to learn how to fly a plane, so he wrote words that expressed that sentiment. Despite this, many people have read something more meaningful in the song. For example, some see it as a cry for salvation. Meanwhile, others think it is about someone preparing to break free from the comfortable and the familiar. Whatever the case, “Learn to Fly” connected with people, so much so that it became the Foo Fighters’ first song on the Billboard Hot 100 by reaching the number 19 position. Even now, it remains the band’s second-highest-charting song on that chart.
5. “I’ve Lost My Ignorance (And Don’t Know Where to Find It)” – Dream Warriors and Gang Starr
Dream Warriors were a pair of Canadian rappers active from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. They are notable for their contributions to alternative hip-hop. Specifically, Dream Warriors are considered notable names in jazz rap, which was most prominent in the 1990s. Similarly, Gang Starr was a hip-hop group from the United States. The best-known lineup consisted of a rapper and record producer active in the same period as the Dream Warriors, though the surviving member released new music as recently as the late 2010s. Gang Starr is notable for being one of the pioneers of jazz rap. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the product of their collaboration is deep, as relevant now as ever before.
4. “Don’t Stay in School” – Boysinaband
Schools have limited time. As a result, they have to teach the things that are considered most important because they can’t teach everything. Thanks to this, interested individuals can find plenty of complaints about what does and doesn’t make it into their curricula. Many of these are focused on how schools don’t pass on much practical knowledge. One example would be personal money management, which can be painful when people pick it up through trial and error. Another example would be civic education, which often receives little focus even though it is supposed to cover one of the most fundamental aspects of society that affects everyone in one way or another. “Don’t Stay in School” is an entire song grumbling about the subjects that are and aren’t taught in school.
3. “Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two” – Pink Floyd
Boarding schools have a poor reputation. Plenty of former boarding school students enjoyed their experiences. However, many others have revealed their dissatisfaction through art and other ways of communication. It isn’t hard to see why former boarding school students might be unhappy with their time in these institutions. After all, they were often removed from their parents at young ages before being forbidden to express their true thoughts and feelings on this separation. Moreover, boarding schools are often rigid and regimented, though there are exceptions to this rule. “Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two” is very much a condemnation of boarding schools and similar institutions. Suffice it to say that its songwriter did not enjoy the strictness of his childhood education.
2. “What Did You Learn in School Today” – Peter Seeger
Sadly, people can’t always trust schools to teach them the truth. To some extent, this is a product of their limited resources. For example, the teachers might not know enough about the subjects to teach them well. Similarly, teachers often go for breadth of knowledge rather than depth of knowledge, which is an enormous problem when topics are often too complicated to compress well.
That said, schools reflect the considerations of the people who create, run, and otherwise shape them. As a result, it isn’t hard to see how bias might creep into places that should be as fair and truthful as possible. Pete Seeger was blacklisted and worse during the McCarthy era because he supported civil rights, labor rights, and anti-militarism. Later, he made a successful re-emergence in the era of protest music. Unsurprisingly, Seeger was less than impressed by the more self-aggrandizing things taught in school on this song.
1. “Don’t Be a Drop-Out” – James Brown
“Don’t Be a Drop-Out” was James Brown’s first socially-conscious song. It did well, as shown by it becoming a Top Ten R&B hit and a Top 50 Pop hit. Yes, schools have plenty of problems in much the same way as everything else in an imperfect world. Even so, education is one of the fundamental ways we can empower ourselves for the better. It is no coincidence that higher education is correlated with better health, higher income, and other important considerations.
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