Song Credit: "I Got It Bad (And It Ain't Good)" by Oscar Peterson, Night Train, 1992
One of the many things that I admire about my brother is his dauntless experiments with music. His voice is powerful and soulful; his ability to layer harmony, calculated. It’s probably the reason why at a young age, he started listening to jazz music, a place where science and magic converge. It was contrary to my childhood experience of learning classical piano because I was told what to play and when to play it. My sight-reading was sluggish, and my teacher was morose. My indifference towards the great works of Bach and Beethoven left me contributing very little to practicing. I was at odds with the material.
Even in 1906, education reformer John Dewey had a point, when he stated that “Facts and truths that enter into the child’s present experience, and those contained in the subject-matter of studies, are the initial and final terms of one reality. To oppose one to the other is to oppose the infancy and maturity of the same growing life” (Dewey, 1902).
As educators, we bear the responsibility of bridging the gap between the child and the abstract. We are the more knowledgeable other in the room who must see to it that the child’s present experience transitions into another, more versatile and resilient experience. There should be no fixed idealizations of children because in adapting that mentality we fall into the danger of labeling them as behind, advanced, or disadvantaged.
True learning stems from genuine curiosity, and it certainly bodes the questions: Are we doing enough in public education to incite curiosity within our students, and are we being provided the means with which to do it?
Such questions would have rivaled my piano teacher’s rhetorical inquiry of “did you even practice at all?” I could never come up with a good answer. I always just sat silently on the piano bench, hearing the faint jazz riff my brother had created, muffled behind his bedroom door.
Work Cited: Dewey, J. (1902). The child and the curriculum (p. 12). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.