Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Teaching the four 'R's

On a related point to yesterday's post on what's missing in mainstream education, Alexandra York -- one of my favourite writers on art and aesthetics -- makes a strong case for what she calls "the fourth 'R' in education," for the integration of art in education; to substitute for the trivium "the Four 'R's of Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic and Art." [See Alexandra York: The Fourth 'R' in Education].

Art is essential in educating you to see the world, she argues; it gives keys to understanding the world and one's own place in it. An excerpt which I think helps illustrate her point talks about the importance of music education in the development of emotional maturity in teenage boys:

Like life, musical passages contain highs and lows, fast and slows … musical vocabulary includes dissonance and resolution, tumult and sublimity, all emboldening a student in the process of making music to feel to his heart’s content within the security of a confined experience... By learning to orchestrate emotional content through so rigorous a structure, the student must learn to merge reason and emotions; otherwise, the resulting music will be cold and sterile, math without the poetry. Classical music is too mentally commanding to permit the flailing and screaming incited by rock n' roll, thus it forces young people to control their emotional output, offering them the experience of cathexis rather than catharsis. Also, because music deals with broad abstractions - triumph, defeat, love, loss - it allows a young person to personalize universals of the human condition, to feel on a grand scale both the hope and the hurt that necessarily accompany an individual life fully lived. For teenagers, in particular, it unlocks gateways to mature excursions into the ecstasy and the vulnerability of love, the headiness and the hazards of risk. Often, once young people begin to understand the value of classical music, they turn to it in moments of emotional need to help them experience deep stirrings that may not make it to the surface of consciousness by themselves. Repressed boys, especially, can benefit immensely from music study.
As another musician said, "Self-knowledge is a dangerous thing; the freedom of who you are." Read York's whole argument here.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. It would help keep our kids centred and away from narcotics, I believe. They need this sort of outlet.


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