In some pockets of the United States, having an awareness of the world is still celebrated.  Music, language, culture, and learning are brought together to encourage teenagers to put down the XBox and strive to become citizens of the world.  Impossible?  Not at all.  It’s just a matter of enthusiasm and making world cultures vibrant.
In recent weeks my father has been introducing his high school French students to the music and persona of Jean-Michel Jarre.  Through the wonder of the Internet, these students–who are a quick-minded bunch who drink in anything new to them–are hearing and seeing Jarre for the very first time.  And thoroughly loving it.
Meet my father.  He’s taught French in high school since 1967.  French culture permeated our family life (even though we’re ethnically Irish).  He made it all come to life and become a living, breathing language spoken by real people.  This is not easily accomplished, as you can imagine, and the students of 1967 were of a much different character than they are today.  But my father’s enthusiasm has always been infectious.
I don’t know who introduced my father to Jean-Michel Jarre, but it was the perfect soundtrack to his enthusiasm.  Naturally if you find a good thing, you pass it on.  So did my father pass Jarre’s music onto his students, who otherwise may never have heard anything like it.  My father introduced me to Jarre through a copy of Oxygene and an article in Paris Match.  Is it any wonder that I never fell into the John Travolta/Bee Gees/disco gutter?
And so, in the wild streets of Philadelphia, there can be found a population of former students still speaking French and still fans of Jean-Michel Jarre.  I really can’t put into words what Jarre has meant to all of us.  But the biggest thrill is to see the spark on the faces of high school sophomores who are all of a sudden realizing they are part of a larger world.
Who knows?  They may even be inspired to try and make it a better world.