[Interview] Kids These Days’ New Video ‘Don’t Harsh My Mellow’ Tackles Education Issues

Photo: (Getty)

The music video for Kids These Days‘ new single “Don’t Harsh My Mellow,” premiered yesterday but that’s not the only thing on the band’s mind — it’s concerned about the state of education and the treatment of teachers and students. If Chicago public schools’ recent teacher strike is any indication, our public school systems could use a bit of our attention.

Watch the video for “Don’t Harsh My Mellow,” which definitely addresses the band’s concerns for our schools.

+Watch Kids These Days’ “Don’t Harsh My Mellow” video.

Band members Liam Cunningham and Vic Mensa really dove into the education and teacher’s strike in their hometown of Chicago. They even stopped by the strike to talk to some teachers. They have a serious connection to the issue: Liam’s dad works for the U.S. Department of Education and Vic’s mom is a teacher in Chicago public schools.  We talked to both about the strike and what they think can help make the situation better. It’s not an easy fix, but these guys have their eye on the prize. And don’t be surprised if “Don’t Harsh My Mellow” becomes an official anthem for teachers!

Liam Cunningham and Vic Mensa of Kids These Days, Photo: (Getty)

ACT: What made you want to get involved with the strike and speak up?

LIAM: I decided to reach out to my teachers because I felt completely out of touch of what was going on and why. I figured I could understand what was really happening if I talked to the people who are directly involved.

VIC: The issue is very close to home for me, with my mother being an employee of Chicago public schools, and the way that she and other teachers were being treated infuriated me.

ACT: Vic, like you mentioned, your  mom is a public school teacher, and Liam, your dad works for the U.S. Department of Education. Theoretically, your rents are on opposite sides of the education debate. Did you grow up hearing and thinking different or similar things about the system?

LIAM: After talking to a lot of teachers and my father, who explained to me the intricacies of this debate, I don’t think this teacher issue is as clear as night and day. I tend to lean towards teachers because I have so much respect and love for teachers and the teaching profession and I feel they have socially been bullied, not only by elected officials, but by the country as a whole.

VIC: My mom’s always been pretty anti-establishment so I’ve definitely adopted that from her in a lot of senses. I’ve always known there were problems with our school system, but I think that that’s something that’s pretty much agreed upon. I think it’s deeper than a black and white, this-side-or-that-side type of argument. Liam’s pops is a person I really respect, too. He’s never really represented that unconcerned “The Man” political point-of-view to me.

ACT: How important is it for non-teachers to get involved with teachers’ strikes like those in Chicago?

LIAM: All I would ask of anyone is to just educate themselves before making any judgements. You can’t ask anyone to drop their whole life and devote themselves fully to the strike. However, I definitely think the world would be a better place if people took the time to find out what was going on in their community and how it affected their family. Just care, that’s all.

VIC: I think it’s helpful for people to get involved. Undoubtedly, if you have family who are teachers, I think that it’s pretty much your duty to stand up for those you love. Even if you don’t, public school teachers played such a huge role in so many of our lives; it’s only right to pay them their respect and support them.

ACT: Strikes are a great start, but what do you think it will take to actually change the system?

LIAM: I think we need a social rearrangement of the way we perceive the job of a teacher and how critical it is to the strength and well-being of our country.

VIC: I think that the actual roots of the problems need to be addressed, and those are very complex issues. I wish I could give you a simple answer, but I really can’t. I think it comes down to a number of things, including concentrated poverty, disproportionate funding, criminalization of young minority kids, drug sentencing, the absence of fathers in black families, the vicious cycle of violence in the hood… so many more things.

ACT: Do you think that, in general, teachers’ well-beings are not appreciated enough by our nation?

LIAM: Yes.

VIC: Not at all. People forget that these teachers are the people who, in many ways, RAISED us. Growing up, we all spent 6 of about 12 hours of our waking day in school. That’s a huge portion of our lives.

ACT: The election is coming up! What do you hope our future president will do with the educational system?

LIAM: I would like to see salary increase for teachers. Being a professional teacher should be an adequate job with the ability support their family and send their children to college. Many teachers I know have more than one job and have to spend some of their own money just to get supplies for their students. By that logic, a “great” teacher, who goes out and gets resources to engage his/her students, is making less money than a horrific teacher. That is wrong.

VIC: First of all, I hope our future president is our current president. The things Romney says about education are crazy. He wants to get rid of public education altogether in favor of privatized charter schools. To even think about people making money off of the education of our kids is gross to me. Our song “Don’t Harsh My Mellow” is definitely a message for Mitt Romney.

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