In the eight years I’ve been running this blog, I’ve had a number of popular and/or controversial posts that generated a lot of comments. But I’ve never experienced the kind of patronizing sneer that came from this weekend’s No Trombones.

If you haven’t read it, don’t look at it yet. Rather, take a sampling of the comments first.


Mr. August, I have been a longtime reader and supporter of your blog, and have taken everything you say as the Lord’s gospel, but I’m sorry to say that I’m staunchly opposed to this post. If you’re not playing devil’s advocate with satire, you should remove this post immediately lest it unfortunately sway some unwitting parent.


You’re an idiot. My intent is not to be rude, but seriously, this is pretty narrow-minded. I don’t disagree that the piano and guitar add to one’s understanding of music, but did you even read what you wrote and how little sense it makes?


Your posts like this one on what we “should” or “should not” do for our children (or any other non-screenwriting-related stuff) border on laughable because of the sheer arrogance that comes through in the writing.

Some other guy:

Are you absolutely insane? Do you understand what you are promoting? I am a drummer, mallet player, saxophone player, and clarinet player in progress. You not only have been completely insulting drummers, but you are insulting the parents of drum players.


Mr. August, I am sincerely sorry that you have evidently never felt the absolute joy that creating music with other people can bring to a person’s life.


Perhaps you should reserve your commentary until you’ve actually completed a music curriculum? Maybe then you would realize that elementary music is just that, ELEMENTARY, designed to teach kids the basics so when they get to high school they can begin to explore the nuances and subtleties of higher level music and the associated theory.

Just reading these comments, it’s pretty clear what I said in my post, right? I must have written that music education is worthless, as are all the traditional band instruments.

I probably set aside special opprobrium for percussion and marching bands.

But wait: I didn’t. At all.

I wrote:

Kids should learn piano and/or guitar.

Either one will serve them well throughout their lives — and if they want to learn both, hooray! If, after becoming proficient in one, older kids choose to pick up the flute or the drums or the cello, congratulations: you now have a young person with a fundamental understanding of how music works and the curiosity to explore further.

So we’re clear: I have nothing against the other instruments. They just don’t belong in the hands of children, and they shouldn’t be anyone’s first instrument.

That’s my thesis. I get why it’s controversial, which is why the rest of the post elaborates upon it.

You can disagree with my thesis. It’s fine to argue the other side.

But I have a strong hunch that many of the folks who left lengthy comments on the post — some were more than 500 words — never read past the lede. Perhaps they never read past the tweet.

They were responding to a perceived attack on trombones, or drums, or marching bands, without bothering to read the paragraphs where I specifically talk about these things.

A few comments broke the Living Room Rules — don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to my face in my living room — but I let them slide because I was amused by the outrage. Ultimately, I started to wonder if the comment box had become an attractive nuisance, tempting people to over-write and under-think.

Time, place and manner

Would these readers say the same things in an email to me? Would they say the same thing on their own blog post, or a Facebook update to their friends? I doubt it.

I’ve long maintained that I have the best commenters on the internet, but for the past few months I’ve been questioning whether hosting comments on my site adds to discussion or hinders it by walling it off from the wider world.

If someone has something to say, shouldn’t she say it on her own forum?

Dave Nuttycombe attempts a point-by-point refutation of my “utter wrong-headedness” on his blog. At 2,000 words, it’s a third longer than my original post — rarely a good sign — but I respect that he has his name on it for everyone to see.

I think his post is pretty weak. Hello, Strawman:

Consider how we adults feign delight over a child’s incoherent crayon scribbles, awarding them a place of honor on the refrigerator door. By August’s logic, we should keep all drawing instruments away from young fingers until they are somehow able to produce gallery-worthy work.

On the contrary, I argued that would should be putting musical instruments like the guitar and piano in kid’s hands as soon as possible. They’re the crayons in Nuttycombe’s analogy, with immediate rewards. Young sculptors start with clay before they get to steel and welding irons. That’s a good thing.

Nuttycombe also attempts an analogy with screenwriters and the rest of the film industry that doesn’t bear much scrutiny. Are gaffers the trombones of moviemaking? I’d love to see a conversion chart.

But his fatal flaw: Dissing the glockenspiel.

He’s learned nothing.