What today’s students can learn from listening to ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’.

I learned more about the refraction of light by staring at the album cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, than I did from my public school teacher. If he was cool, he would have played the album while we were learning about it; at least, that’s what I would have done.” –Phil Jones, Professor

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s album ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’.  There’s a lot of life’s lessons embedded in that 1973 gem that are still relevant today and can be taught to students 40 years after its release.

I remember when I was teaching a class about time management strategies last semester and I played a sound bite from a song on the album called ‘Time’. To my surprise, when I asked students if they knew the name of the group or the name of the song, most didn’t. Those that did know, told me that their ‘baby boomer’ parents played it all the time (most of those students were big fans too).  From there, I encouraged the non-listeners to put aside 45 minutes of listening to their over-commercialized, top 40 music, or as I call it, ‘ear vomit in the auditory cortex’, and instead listen to this classic album. “Is it on YouTube sir?” asked one girl. “Is that Pink’s (female singer) real last name?” asked another. Sigh.

Track by track, here are some of the lessons this generation can learn from listening to one of the greatest albums of all time:

‘Speak to me’: To have both an awareness and the ability on how to deal with a full range of mental illness issues that affects not only others, but themselves as well. Bouts of depression, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, high levels of stress and anxiety, and the ability (or non-ability) to deal with the rapid speed of change, top the list for most students.

‘Breathe’: With all the stress and pressures of college life and beyond graduation, they will need to learn to have balance in their life, and not always be chasing the dangling ‘golden carrot’. As the lyrics say, “you race towards an early grave.” They need to not lose sight of who they are and what’s important to them.

‘On the Run’: In today’s ‘going global’ job market, many students will soon be thrust into a life of spending time in airports after they graduate. This means they’ll be standing in long lineups, rushing to catch flights, learning to deal with flight delays, bad food, and jet lag. It’s time to start working on a good personal stress management routine; they’ll need it.

‘Time’: Emphasize to students the importance of managing their time so that they don’t “fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way”. I know it’s a hard sell to tell an 18-22 year old that they actually don’t have all the time in the world to do the things they want, but they need to be told. A great line in the song, “no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.” Maybe we’re the one’s to tell them when to run…and it’s now.

‘The Great Gig in the Sky’: Tomorrow is promised to no one…even if you’re 18.

‘Money’: Reality check. It’s important to remind them that contrary to the music videos and TV reality shows they watch, most people have to work very hard (and smart) to earn a decent living. ‘Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay’; that’s another reality check you need to pass on to students. Even with a good job and good pay, they’re only okay if they don’t get laid off, fired, or are on the wrong end of a ‘re-structuring’ plan.

‘Us and Them’: Lose the ‘us and them’ mentality. Students need to learn the value of diversity, difference and inclusion.

‘Brain Damage’: The ‘lunatic’ in today’s society is the pace and magnitude of change. They need to understand the process of change and be able to go with the flow (“and if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes…”). As Charles Darwin said, “It’s not the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change.” Good advice for students.

‘Eclipse’: Some students will need to realize that there will always be good times and bad times in their lives after graduation. As with an eclipse, hopefully the dark times will be brief and will pass. For some, they will experience a total eclipse in their lives, for others, only a partial eclipse. Regardless of the type, the importance of dealing with change and stress must be learned.

Now I’m going to check out if The Dark Side of the Moon synchronizes with the Wizard of Oz…or so I’ve heard.

When was the first time you heard Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’? Do the lyrics have any meaning to you?


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