An author and political science professor says the debate over violent and obscene lyrics to music and their effects on children is a distraction from a far more important issue – the power of the music itself.

Carson Holloway, who teaches political at Concord College in West Virginia, is the author of "All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics" (Spence Publishing, 2000). He observes that many kids today enjoy the music of hard-core rockers like Ozzy Osborne, Rage Against the Machine, and AC/DC – artists whose lyrics are often as outrageous as their costumes and stage antics, with content that ranges from the violent and immoral to the misogynistic and obscene.

Unfortunately, Holloway says, many parents feel it is fine if their 11- or 12-year-old listens to edited versions of the songs or rewrites that substitute "clean" words. But such measures, he warns, may not get at the root of the influence such songs can have on children – an influence that goes beyond mere words.

"You can tell that music has a certain emotional character to it," the professor and cultural critic notes. For example, he cites "the way music is used very effectively in movies, even without words," and points out that, "You wouldn't use, say, a Strauss waltz to depict people going into battle or something like that."

Clearly, Holloway explains, there is an emotional character to music, "and it not only depicts the emotions but moves them." Music speaks to people on an emotional level, he asserts, and parents need to be aware of what effects various kinds of music can have on their kids.

"Plato and Aristotle believed and observed that music has the power to move the passions," the author of "All Shook Up" says, "and that young people, generally, need a kind of character formation that will moderate their passions, teach them how to organize them and discipline them in the light of reason." However, he notes, "It doesn't seem like that's the kind of education you get from a lot of really hard-core rock music."

In fact, Holloway contends that the underlying style of music many young people listen to frequently conjures up intense, frenzied feelings and rage. While the argument is valid about popular songs' violent and obscene lyrical content affecting kids, he says parents need to pay attention to the music itself and how different types of music can impact kids, regardless of what the words say.


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