Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Learning piano?

From: Tay Arrow Sherman <>
Date: Mon Dec 5 12:58:00 2005

Hi, Matt--

Languages seem to be an ongoing issue. I have various thoughts about

Part of why it's so hard to learn languages without intensive lessons
is the artificiality with which we have come to teach languages. It's
hard to stick with French (etc) lessons if nobody is pushing you but
yourself, because the payoff is so slooooow. But what if you went to
France for a while, and did some immersion? Nobody learns their first
language through lessons. You learn it because your parents speak it,
because you need to know it to get food and use the bathroom. It is
exactly so in any form of immersion learning.

How many people do you know, who took language classes in college or
high school, became fluent in that language through those lessons,
without immersion? How many people do you know who could even carry on
the simplest first-day-of-class conversation in that language?

To me, immersion is the only real way to learn a language. It's how I
learned English and though I took French for four years in college, it
was the immersion program I did halfway through college that actually
taught me French.

Another thing I have noticed is that this goes to any level. I've got a
Master's in English, but it was not until last year when I got an iBook
where the chat client spellchecks and underlines automatically as you
type that I learned how to spell words like "weird", "field", and
"conscious". Of course, this obviously has not done much for my
sentence structure.

Right now, although I know of no such schools already in existence, I
do know of some people who are interested in opening bilingual Sudbury
schools. This would offer some free-form language learning, which is
after all the most natural way to learn a language. My personal fantasy
is that we would end up with many bilingual schools, and schools in
many countries, and that a coherent exchange program could be
implemented. I love the idea that becoming bilingual would be
incidental in such a school.

Music is similar in some ways. I think if one plays around with
instruments for a while, doing improv and making sounds, eventually
technical issues become more interesting. It was this way for me with
certain aspects of writing-- I liked to journal, and eventually I
became interested in free verse. Then I liked free verse, and
eventually I became interested in form. Now I write in whatever format
I feel is appropriate, which can certainly include the terzanelle or
the sestina. I can see a similar flow chart for sound improv, to
melodies and harmonies, to sight reading, et cetera.

Some of these things we learn in school, well, it's hard to imagine
learning them freely. I think a lot of this has to do with the
extremely artificial way in which we learn these things. Nothing has to
be learned artificially.

I dunno the answer to your REAL question. I don't think there is
anything that I know how to do that I hated learning at the time, but I
could just be having Idealistic Memory Of Childhood Syndrome. Maybe
mathematics? I think it constitutes some harm to feel unhappy, but I
think it would be less unhappy-making to be able to get an answer when
you ask questions like, "what good is it to me to learn this stuff?"
Kids get ignored on that question, and I think it is a pretty important
one. I also think that the biggest hurdle for kids is patience. But I
mean, good lord, I learned patience from video games and commuting. You
get it somewhere, sooner or later, because feeling impatient sucks!
Finally, I do think that instant gratification is less appealing to
Sudbury kids than to kids in traditional schools. Sudbury kids have to
develop a level of understanding of their subjects that suits them,
rather than merely gather enough globs of information and memorised
phrases to pass the next test before they forget it all. Having
actually learned something is always super rewarding.


On 5 Dec, 2005, at 11.29, Matt Schick wrote:

> Hi. I'm new to this forum (and to the Sudbury model in general). A
> question:
> In my experience, there are things that I have learned (musical
> instruments and foreign languages
> jump to mind as the best examples) where, after an initial period of
> interest/excitement when
> starting out, things get really difficult - you're working uphill
> towards a goal that's way off in
> the future somewhere, there's very little benefit in the present (just
> the opposite, actually - a
> whole lot of dull repetetive practice), and it's VERY tempting to give
> up. But after a while (a
> year or two? more or less?), once you start getting good, it becomes
> enjoyable in and of itself.
> In a Sudbury school, how do kids come to recognize that hill and what
> it takes to get over it? I
> know that I would have given up flute within the first year if my
> parents hadn't pushed me to keep
> practicing - but in the long run, I'm VERY happy they did.
> You know, that's not actually my question. I think I already have a
> feel for how you'd answer that
> one. Here's the real question I think I want to ask: If you have
> 8-year old kids and you make them
> practice piano 30 minutes a day (despite any resistance they may put
> up), the kids may hate it at
> the time, but by the time they're 16 they'll almost surely be REALLY
> happy that they can play the
> piano pretty well. What would you say about that? Where's the harm? I
> know that it goes COMPLETELY
> against the Sudbury model, but still... Small price to pay, maybe? Or
> does it completely ruin the
> adult/child relationship? Or destroy a child's sense of his or her own
> power in life? (And not to
> mention that trying to get a kid, or anyone else for that matter, to
> do something that he/she
> doesn't want to do is NO fun at ALL...) I don't doubt that there IS
> harm done, I just can't seem
> to find it myself. So I'm asking you.
> [When I was 16, I would REALLY liked to have been able to play piano
> (both of my parents can play)
> and speak French (my mother's bilingual). Of course, I can learn these
> things now (and am in the
> process of doing so), but...]
> Thanks.
> - Matt
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Received on Mon Dec 05 2005 - 12:57:10 EST

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