Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Lure of the Superficial

It gets more and more difficult to get music appreciation students to even try to understand Beethoven. Year after year I find fewer and fewer students really care to engage in Beethoven beyond a melody or two. In Daniel Barenboim's "Beethoven and the Quality of Courage" that just appeared in the New York Review of Books, he mentions that Beethoven was unable to write anything superficial. Perhaps the problem lies in the undeniable fact that our young people are being bombarded with so much superficiality in their lives (much of it technologically produced) that some of them never learn to separate the superficial from the essential. Perhaps Beethoven's "in your face" substantialness is too much for many of them to deal with.

I fear that the gradual and deliberate "on-lining" of education will not teach students how to separate the essential from the superficial. After learning how to separate the superficial from the non-superficial the old-fashioned way, it is possible to derive value from anything, but people first need to learn how to learn in order to be able to do the self-directed type of learning that is necessary when studying something solely by way of a computer. That kind of learning is certainly not being taught in the high schools that are suffering from years and years of teaching "to the test."

When it is difficult to engage people in learning material that isn't necessarily going to be "on the test," how can you expect them to move forward and become truly educated.

I have never been able to "do" being superficial with any degree authenticity (irony intended). I also don't recognize superficiality until after the fact.

Now it's time to share a poem by Hughes Mearns:

Yesterday, up on the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd stay away . . .

When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door . . . (Slam!)

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away.

No comments: