Pop Quiz: Moby | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Pop Quiz: Moby

The tech-happy musician and activist advocates emotionally aware educators.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
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Moby's career has been a story of extremes and paradoxes. This intense musician (real name: Richard Melville Hall) has been an underground New York City DJ, a punk rock drummer, and a creator of euphoric and trancelike dance music who jumps around stage like a dervish. In 1999, he took the dance clubs by storm with Play, which sold more than nine million copies. He is also a highly aware environmentalist and social commentator and a sharply astute advocate of alternative lifestyles.

Literature teachers may feel a special connection to the eclectic artist. He got his nickname after Moby Dick, which was penned by his great-great-grand-uncle Herman Melville.

Nine chart-topping albums later, he has released a compilation album called Go: The Very Best of Moby. He says of his life as a solo artist, "Working in my studio at home, I just try to make music that pulls at my heartstrings and affects me in a very profound way. If it does that to me, hopefully there is a chance it will do it to other people as well."

What is your idea of a perfect teacher?

Ideally, a teacher should be patient, enthusiastic, ideologically and intellectually flexible, and committed to the growth and development of his or her students. Oh, and noncompetitive.

What was your most memorable school experience?

I'm a nerd -- winning the townwide spelling bee in fifth grade.

What was the low point of your school career?

Being rejected from the choir in sixth grade. Ironic, huh?

Where did you fit in your schools' social hierarchies?

I have no idea. I was a punk rocker and a nerd, neither of which made me terribly popular.

Did you go to public school, or private school?

I've only gone to public schools.

What was your favorite subject?

Reading. Literature. I'm not sure what it was called at the time. Anything that involved fiction.

If you could change one thing about education in America, what would it be?

Somehow, make it less regimented and rote. When I was in school, we had a lot of memorization without context. History is fascinating, but not when it's reduced to decontextualized times, dates, and names.

What is impossible to learn in school?


What should they teach that they don't now?

Anger management, emotional self-awareness, small-business start-up skills.

What did you learn today?

That all sunblock over SPF 15 is equally effective.

What did you teach?

Nothing as of yet.

What is in your dream lunch box?

Vegan tacos.

If you wrote a textbook, what would it be called?

Name Five Successful People Who Didn't Do Well in School.

If the prom were tomorrow, whom would you take?

Alas, I'm currently without a prom date.

Comments (2)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Jeffrey Moshe's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


You are welcome to visit my classroom. I may have to get you cleared with the school district first.

Thanks for doing what you do.

Howard B. Esbin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Edutopia rocks! I'm a great fan of Moby. Thank you. Two questions/answers resonate -

1. "What should they teach that they don't now?
Anger management, emotional self-awareness, & small-business start-up skills"

There's a remarkable awakening as to the centrality of emotional and social intelligence within daily life at every stage. One sees it cross sectorally, in the emergence of related fields of research and practice, and its profile within popular media. I recently attempted to map out the various initiatives and models along a continuum from pre -school to the workplace. [Life Span Positive Development - http://heliograph.blogspot.com/]

All to say, there's a significant critical mass of astute, attuned professionals across all facets of education who 'get it', just as their counterparts do in the helping professions, and within human resource management.

In relation to teaching small business start up skills in class, I'd like to recommend a remarkable learning tool called Real Games. Students' role-play being members of a fictional community. Each student assumes a profession and is responsible for a budget. In the process, the community goes through a challenge and people are laid off. The game provides youth with a real understanding of economics and the basis of business. It's available in California at www.californiacareers.info/series.html

2. "If you wrote a textbook, what would it be called?
Name Five Successful People Who Didn't Do Well in School"

I googled the question and came up with http://ask.metafilter.com/76375/Failed-School-Succeeded-Life
This lists Bill Gates, Einstein, Damien Hirst, and Richard Branson among many others.

The question is why? Research I've seen suggests more than half of early school leavers are gifted visual spatial learners. My sense is those youth who don't fit the mold are increasingly able to find meaningful outlets and learning experience for their unique gifts and skills through digital tech, social software, and the high speed Internet.

Thanks for an interesting enough article to pull me away from deadline!

Howard B. Esbin, PhD
Toronto, Ontario

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