Friday, June 11, 2021

A matter of surprise to some

Mademoiselle Albertine Necker de Saussure an early advocate of education for women wrote the following in the early 1800's with regards to the development of the child.
 "It is a matter of surprise to some, that children are satisfied with the rudest imitations. They are looked down upon for their want of feeling for art, while they should rather be admired for the force of imagination which renders such illusion possible. Mold a lump of wax into a figure or cut one out of paper, and, provided it has something like legs and arms and a rounded piece for a head, it will be a man in the eyes of the child. This man will last for weeks; the loss of a limb or two will make no difference; and he will fill every part you choose to make him play.

"The child does not see the imperfect copy, but only the model in his own mind. The wax figure is to him only a symbol on which he does not dwell. No matter though the symbol be ill chosen and insignificant; the young spirit penetrates the veil, arrives at the thing itself, and contemplates it in its true aspect. Too exact imitations of things undergo the fate of the things themselves, of which the child soon tires. He admires them, is delighted with them, but his imagination is impeded by the exactness of their forms, which represent one thing only; and how is he to be contented with one amusement? A toy soldier fully equipped is only a soldier; it can not represent his father or any other personage.

"It would seem as if the young mind felt its originality more strongly when, under the inspiration of the moment, it puts all things in requisition, and sees, in everything around, the instruments of its pleasure. A stool turned over is a boat, a carriage; set on its legs it becomes a horse or a table; a bandbox becomes a house, a cupboard, a wagon—anything. You should enter into his ideas, and, even before the time for useful toys, should provide the child with the means of constructing for himself, rather than with things ready made."
I was reminded yesterday of an interview on NPR with Yo-yo Ma, American cellist. It aired a number of years ago. He was traveling in China and when he played in a family home, the children began wrestling on the floor. When he would quit playing they would stop. When he would start playing again, they would resume wrestling. It seemed backwards from the common expectation that when a musician would play the audience would sit quietly and deferentially and listen. 

Can we put ourselves in the mind of the child and see things from a more appropriate angle? Music and the arts are the means through which we become participants in life. And for that reason should be dead center in their educations, not a sideline or sideshow.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

1 comment:

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