Smells like a Facebook face-off

Is Nirvana OK for kindergartners? Discuss among yourselves.

My opinion that Nirvana isn’t appropriate music for a pre-kinderarten class ignited an argument 3,000 miles away. I’d related to my Virginia cousin, Karen, via Facebook, how appalled I was when the music teacher at the elementary school where I work showed junior kindergartners the video, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” George, our mutual Facebook friend, jumped into the conversation, defending the lesson.

“Nirvana was my daughter’s favorite band when she was pre-kindergarten age,” he protested. “Lily loved ‘Lithium’… and ‘Rape Me’ is a great song about violence against women!”

“But Lily listened to that music at home, not as part of a pre-kindergarten curriculum,” argued Karen, a college professor with a 3 1/2-year-old daughter. “Were you explaining the lyrics to her? The masterpiece that is ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ might be a bit overwhelming for 4-year-olds. I hate to ever say that Nirvana is inappropriate, but yes, I will say, Nirvana is really not appropriate for 4- to 5-year-olds.”

“I think it was totally appropriate, it sounds like a teachable moment, as they say,” George shot back. “I always vote in favor of exposure and not sheltering kids. … Colonials sheltered their kids from African music because it was too disturbing.”

“This is ridiculous,” said Karen. “I love grunge, but I wouldn’t want my daughter exposed to it in daycare! Kids thrive on the music for their age and I would much rather have teachers gauge their material to be age specific and let me decide the other stuff. Kids like Barney for a reason, and adults don’t like Barney for a reason.”

“It sounds like this teacher has seen School of Rock one too many times,” she added.

“Well I’m sticking to my guns,” George said. “I’m committed to not sheltering kids, period.”

“We played everything from R.E.M. to Harry James to Tanya Tucker at our house when our kids were small,” I offered, but they were never listening for any overt messages, they just liked the music. I would have been horrified if a teacher played a song like ‘Rape Me’ without my permission.”

“Exactly,” Karen said. “I just had too many incidences in my childhood where I was exposed to things I wasn’t ready for. I love that my daughter lets me know what she’s ready for and not ready for. The other day she wondered who the Road Runner character was, and when I showed her a clip of a cartoon she didn’t like it because it was too violent.”

“When my son Nick was 3 he loved Bugs Bunny, but he got upset when Elmer Fudd tried to hurt him,” I said.

“So, George, you don’t approve of ‘age appropriate’ as a concept?” Karen pressed. “Because I think Kurt Cobain himself would not think his music was classroom ready for 4-year-olds.”

George, however, had exited the Facebook discussion. But not before posting The Muppets’ version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” OK, maybe that would work.