The Only Major That Matters
The Pedagogical Potential of Punk
Written by Cameron Mays
At one point, the barrier of entry for an education in jazz was a $40 used horn and a tolerance for debauchery. Today, one semester at a private music school costs $23,475, and that doesn’t even include the debauchery. Jazz, the child of proud musical traditions, was born on the street and raised in the gritty nightclubs of the people. Now in its elder years, it prefers the sterile recital halls of the well-to-do. It is not illogical to assume other forms of music will be given the Ivy League treatment — thus, it is worth examining what a formal education in punk rock might look like.
Punk Studies (PNK) can be taught anywhere that has a “scene.”
Punk Studies (PNK) can be taught anywhere that has a “scene.” A scene is the complex socioeconomic environment between musicians, fans, venue owners and convenience store clerks who don’t card. The most prestigious amongst the scene will be selected as professors. The rhythm guitarist of the vestigial anti-Bush band, the 53-year-old barista that won’t shut up about meeting Tom Verlaine and anyone that hates the Beatles are all well suited to teach the next generation of punk rockers.
The student body would almost exclusively be made up of suburban teens misconceived about emo music.
The halls of the Punk Studies department should be pre-tagged and pre-stunk with the miasma of spewed Pabst Blue Ribbon. Besides a Ford Taurus bench seat in the back, classrooms are standing room only with ample space for a pit. Professors would be given a soap box to yap on at the front. The student body would almost exclusively be made up of suburban teens misconceived about emo music. An education in punk would both begin late and end early.
PNK 101 - Intro to Punk Uni Life
Orientation course for academic success in punk studies. Students will be introduced to classroom etiquette required to simply get by, such as engaged tardiness and balanced restlessness.
PNK 141 - History of Punk
Course cataloging the history of punk rock, from when it changed the scene to when Spotify ruined the scene. Lectures will be delivered in the form of a long-winded argument.
PNK 182 - Showmanship 1: The Home Show
A studio class that will explore the home show — from conception (floating the idea with the roommates), to execution (buying a twenty-four pack), to conclusion (a noise complaint).
PNK 209 - Aesthetics of DIY
A broad exploration of the various aesthetic possibilities of doing-it-yourself and using it to justify haste. Gaff-taped curtains, stencil-bled shirts, and more are examined from a practical standpoint as well as an artistic consideration.
PNK 238 - Noise from Nothing
A laboratory class where students will turn used gear, broken cables, and a Bullet Strat into their signature sound. May be repeated up to three times.
PNK 278 - Showmanship 2: The Dive Bar Show
Building on PNK 182, the Dive Bar Show will likely take place when the drummer works. Emphasis of the course is on the lack of emphasis on punctuality.
PNK 285 - Producing the Voice Memo Single
Production of a song using the Voice Memo app. Through optimal phone placement, pressing record and converting to an MP3 file, students will have a high quality Bandcamp single that will be eventually listened to by their peers.
PNK 311 - Guitar Workshop
Advanced fundamentals of punk rock guitar playing open to punk majors and music majors alike. Various guitar techniques such palm muting, controlled feedback and low strap barre chords will be developed and mastered. One-on-one instruction with a scene veteran culminates in a final presentation of learned skills. May be repeated up to three times.
PNK 311.5 Bass Workshop
Minimum fundamentals of punk rock bass playing open to punk majors and anyone with a head on their shoulders. A weeklong afterthought that focuses on identifying the root and playing eighth notes. Course instruction is delivered via YouTube tutorials. Advised not to be repeated more than three times.
PNK 367 - The McMansion Sound
Students will begin work on an album that implements the sonic qualities found in the basement studio of upper middle class tract homes. Students will not complete the course with a finished album, rather, a folder of unmixed files condemned to hard drive incarceration. Prerequisites for the course include having a buddy who’s got a setup at their parent’s place.
PNK 395 - Showmanship 3: The Venue Show
Combining the skills developed in PNK 182 and PNK 278 is a capstone course daydreaming the playing of a show in “a real venue”. Much of the course would be spent in fantasy, hoping to be asked to open for a reunited L.A. hardcore act.
Core classes aside, Punk Studies has the capacity for multi-disciplinary engagement. A course in conjunction with the Economics department could explore the bumming micro-economy of punk rock. A Political Science and Punk Studies course could introduce the Ramone spectrum of punk politics. The educational potential of Punk Studies is undeniably limitless from a learning perspective and a monetary standpoint.
The biggest concern with studying the humanities in college is future job prospects. It should come as great relief to educational institutes and students alike that Punk Studies is unburdened by this concern. Instead, the post-collegiate period for a Punk Studies major is far more fluid but yields a different sort of failure or success. Failure is selling out, typically signified by a law school application. Success is any successful re-engagement with the scene, this time on more favorable terms. A well-heeled Punk Studies alumnus might find themselves the frontman of a noise band, the owner of a bar with no bathroom doors or, if they are truly lucky, the convenience store clerk that doesn’t card.