What bothers me is that children watch American Idol, and children are now developing this idea that singing is something that should be attempted only by the “talented.” Some children now believe that judging singers is an amusing spectator activity, and making fun of imperfect singers is perfectly OK. Hilarious and justified, in fact: anyone who dares to sing in front of a camera deserves our scrutiny and scorn. None of this encourages children—or their families—to participate joyfully in group or individual singing. In the American Idol paradigm, singing is now reserved for those who have a “good” voice.I disagree. I come at this from a different perspect. Unlike a musically talented person like Flanagan, I'm bad at singing. I was a third grader when I learned this, and I felt terrible about it. I've refrained from singing in almost every situation since then, out of the belief that it's very embarrassing and humiliating to sing off key -- even to sing one note off key.
I think if I'd been able to watch "American Idol" in my formative years, I could have been happier about my singing. What strikes me about the show is that so many people sing off key. Even the top singers go "pitchy" at times. It's not my secret shame, then. It's widely shared, and many, many people sing in public, even exposed to critics and possible outright ridicule, and they survive. What nerve people have! I would think. I need to get some of that.
In fact, I think the show demonstrates how to deal with criticism. We've seen hundreds of young people stand there -- they rarely collapse -- and listen to judges critique them. Some behave foolishly, but an amazing number of them stand up to it courageously, some are heroically thankful for the honesty, some survive a beating and sing another day, some are able to absorb the judges' advice and improve over the course of the season. This teaches something different from the endless, soothing bath of encouragement Flanagan recommends.
I think it's fine learn that some people do better than others. We need to develop taste. And it's great to learn that honest criticism -- and even some mockery -- is not only survivable but can even be beneficial. And it's even rather nice that kids can learn that there is work -- glamorous work! -- for the critic -- that it's worth it to learn to perceive and judge and put that judgment into articulate language.