Supreme Musical Artists of the Past Fifty Years

Michael Jackson? Tupac? What do you think — who are the supreme musical artists of the past fifty years?

As some of you know, the sophomores of the Crimson Summer Academy vote every summer for which three artists should hold that title, known as SMAPFY for short. My colleague Joyce Bunten and I teach a unit on Models of Voting, and we are unsurprised to find that teenagers relate more to musicians than to politicians — regardless of whether they are learning about First Past the Post, Two-round Runoff, Ranked Choice Voting, or the Electoral College — so we conduct several votes for SMAPFY (skipping the Electoral College, which is too unwieldy for such simulations). Below are this summer’s results for the first round of the Two-round Runoff method; take a careful look and see whether anything surprises you.

Keep in mind that these are inner-city sophomores from public high schools in Boston and Cambridge. So it may be expected that Michael Jackson would come in first, as he almost always does. And Tupac isn’t surprising (but see this article). I might not have expected Aretha Franklin. And I certainly wouldn’t have expected Bon Jovi or Nina Simone. And Janis Joplin???? In 2019 teenagers? That’s a surprise.

You may wonder who Richard Martinez is. He’s one of our teaching assistants — a Harvard undergrad who functions as a mentor to these students and assists one of the regular teachers. In 16 years of doing this activity, I don’t think any cohort has selected one of their mentors!


Categories: Math, Teaching & Learning