The following sentence is attributed to Jules Verne: "What a great book could be written with what is known. But even more with what is not known." There are bad times to claim knowledge. Much less to talk about the social need of culture. The utilitarianism of some and the eagerness of entertainment of others are imposed as measures that guarantee the "somatization" of the citizen, from which, do not doubt it, not a few benefit, disguising it as realism and philanthropy.
But it is not time, at least in this column, to blame the guilty, but to analyze the situation in an introspective way and carefully examine how we teach our students (a task that, on the other hand, performs every good teaching professional on a daily basis) ), to observe and assess the strengths and weaknesses of our practice. I come to talk about content . Yes, yes, contents. I know that the contents are not carried and that what is glamorous is to talk about procedures, but, you see, I think that the procedures, without contents, matter a damn. And, with content, less than some pretend to make us believe.
I intend to explain, now that the school year has just begun, what I think should be demanded of anyone who has taken the honest resolution to transmit what he knows to those who still do not know it, which is the main purpose that a teacher should consider every Once you start a new class: let your students know more than they knew.
If I opened the door of my institute's music classroom, you would find a good number of teenagers in each group, whose interests are quite far from what I (also from what classmates from other disciplines) would like to teach you. And, generally, with little desire to make an effort. Let us add, take note of the enlightened of the new education, an obvious inclination to pass the exam without much effort, in the best case (that is, in the case that they want to take care of something). But all this is natural in the adolescent, who has always opted (and will opt) for the easiest and most comfortable way to achieve his goals (come on, like many adults). And this cannot surprise us or bother us because we have all been teenagers.
In such circumstances, what can we propose? My aspiration is clear and goes beyond the contents of my subject, which is music. It goes further, I say, but it depends on those contents that make it up, I don't know if they understand me. I hope, I wish, I ambition, I sigh to provoke in my students curiosity to learn more. More in general. Not only more music. More history More literature More physical More. I want them to be aware of the amount of beautiful (and unpleasant, but knowing about these things is also valuable) that we still have to know. And to be able to inoculate that desire to know, the first thing that I must demand is sincerity and transparency (honesty, after all) in the contagion of this greed (our students know little about us, but quickly notice if you are an impostor, a smoke seller or someone who knows about his own and loves what he teaches). With regard to knowledge, we must sin of gluttony. Because what you know may not be enough. Because knowing encourages you to know a little more. It is (or should be) an temptation impossible to appease. And that is the case, just like that, as one is entitled to claim his students hunger for knowledge. A teacher has to be a cultured person. It seems inconceivable to pretend to teach a subject without understanding that this is related, more or less close, depending on the case, with others. How to teach music without basic knowledge of art, history, philosophy, language, literature, mathematics, physics ...? I say "basic." You have to master your subject, but this is usually impossible if you ignore everything else . I am referring to some elementary notions that allow you to support you in other disciplines to make yours understand. We all have gaps in many fields. But one can read, remember, study ... The teacher must be a specialist in his subject. This is indisputable. But the general culture determines if you are prepared to teach. Because to teach you have to know how to relate, contextualize ...
Is it possible to make a 15-year-old student understand the birth of polyphony without explaining what feudal society was like, what was humanism, what is the difference between Gothic and Romanesque? Can you get me to understand the qualities of sound (and, consequently, musical elements) without referring to physical parameters? Does it make sense to explain musical harmony without resorting to mathematics? In this, I think there are no excuses. Let us complain about the ratio, the social disregard, the distance between what the educational administrations (and the supposed experts) determine and what the teachers need. Let's do it so as not to fall into that "who is silent, grant". But let's be exemplary in relation to our general culture. We all have gaps in areas that are not strictly ours. But we want to (fill in) them. And we must be allowed and facilitated.
Preparing a class well takes time. Eliminate, gentlemen managers, useless bureaucracy. Give us time and support our continuing education. Free us from useless tasks, no matter how aesthetic, so that we can teach better and better and that our students admire us. Let them think that their teacher "tastes like an egg." To ask questions and answer agile and convinced. That they notice that they like a student to pose a challenge and solve it. Because he is his teacher. That they find in all this something stimulating. Because, beyond subjects and content (but, I insist, closely related to them), what we play is that these young people, one day, come to find pleasure in learning. It doesn't get right away. But this is teaching: sowing and trusting that, one day, what one has sown will bear fruit. Let's get to it. Everyone.
Alberto Royo is a classical guitarist, musicologist and high school teacher. He is the author of the essays Against the new education (Platform. 2016), The gas society (Platform. 2017) and Notebook of a teacher (Platform. 2019).
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