Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Musings on Society

You know, if I had a dollar for every time a parent wanted me to tell them that their kid could manage to learn music without practicing, I'd be rich. There is a local music teacher who tells the parents and kids that they don't have to practice.

He's full up with students.

His students aren't learning much of anything, either. He's just taking their money, and I don't have that gene.

You know, I don't care what kids learn, whether it be music, sports, or whatever. But I do care if they learn priorities and committment. Kids don't come hard-wired with anything but instant gratification; we need to teach them the satisfaction and fulfillment of working toward and reaching a long-term goal.

But then up pops the question, what if this isn't their thing? What if they don't end up being concert musicians or professional soccer players or gold medal ice skaters?

What if they do make a committment, and they end up just like anyone else? Think of all that time they missed watching tv! Think of all those video games that they were dying to play! They're going to regret that for the rest of their life!

(Er, was the sarcasm too strong there?)

I hear the worry. What if they invest all that time? What if they invest their heart and soul into the pursuit of a goal that they don't, or even can't, achieve? People look at Sasha Cohen and say, look at all she's worked for! All she's sacrificed! And what for? A Silver Medal???

No, really. People say that.

So is the prevailing attitude that nothing is worth pursuing or sacrificing for, unless you can be the best?

What about all that we learn from pursuing an art form and striving for excellence? It's never wasted time. Excellence, once learned, transfers into every pocket of our life. Studies have proven that children who learn delayed gratification are far more successful than those who choose instant gratification.

And what of--my favorite--the striving? What of the satisfaction one gets from pushing oneself further than one thought one could go? That's no small satisfaction!

Yesterday, a student made it from the beginning to the end of piece. It was easy, and he was pleased. Yesterday, another student also managed to make it through to the end of piece she'd cried over, hated at times, struggled with for weeks, and sacrificed countless hours over. One she thought she couldn't do, one she almost quit over.

You can bet she was WAY more than pleased. She was so ecstatic she practically cried--this time with joy. She wasn't just happy, and she didn't just learn to play the piece; she learned self-confidence. She learned to trust herself and the learning process. She learned that there is no greater thrill than doing something she thought she couldn't do.

Is that a waste of time?

8 bonus scribbles:

Holly Kennedy 1/30/2007 10:08:00 PM  

Love your post, which mirrors the life we live as writers, don't you think? Practice makes perfect and hard work is where we learn the craft and gain our self-confidence inch by inch.

If one of my kids wanted to learn an instrument (piano, tuba, whatever) I'd be livid if his instructor told him he didn't have to practice, which teaches him ZERO work ethic.

P.S. I've added you to my blog link list. I hope you don't mind!!

Liz Wolfe 1/30/2007 11:31:00 PM  

I will never forget the feeling I got when I typed 'the end' on my first novel (which is still under the bed...lol). Until that moment I wasn't at all sure I could actually write a novel. If I hadn't been willing to invest a lot of effort and time, I'd never have had that feeling. And I still get a version of that with each book I write. Each accomplishment makes me feel stronger.
Why on earth would we want to take that feeling away from our children?

Edie 1/30/2007 11:36:00 PM  

Spy, during one Olympic season, between games, the TV station did "slice of life" snapshots of former Olympic athletes. They all were doctors, etc. And they all said the determination and the need to be their best attitude they learned as an athlete--with all the sacrifice and long hours of training that entailed--helped them to succeed in their post-Olympic lives.

spyscribbler 1/31/2007 10:30:00 AM  

It really does, Holly. I think I forgot to make that point, LOL. :-) Thanks for the add! I need to update my list over there! You're one of my Daily Reads, for sure!

Oh Liz! I know the feeling. I remember--maybe this is crazy--that when I first started writing stories, I would sleep after I typed The End, simply because my imagination wouldn't be working in overdrive. Not to mention the feeling of accomplishment! (And the OMG I made it feeling, too!)

So true, Edie! I remember seeing that. Very inspirational!

lainey bancroft 1/31/2007 10:36:00 AM  

Learn by signing up? *snicker* Kinda like all the chubby, unfit people out there who've spent thousands on diet books and exercise equipment. Non?

Nothing you apply yourself to and learn is a waste of time. For all the reasons you mention. And also--particularly for kids-- it's beneficial to understand the distinction between THE BEST and personal best. A lot of enjoyment would be missed if you quit hockey because you weren't going to be the next Gretzky...guitar because you couldn't out-do Hendrix...writing because you weren't on par with King & La Nora...

Erik Ivan James 1/31/2007 12:08:00 PM  

This is a wonderful post, Spyscribbler.

Nah, that's an understatement.

This is a beautiful post, Spyscribbler.

Zoe Winters 1/31/2007 05:03:00 PM  

To me, it would be an incredible waste of time to get to the end of your life and to learn you never pushed for anything but what came easy. That's incredibly "lame." If you push and strive for something and don't make it, fine. But to never try...that to me is very sad.

spyscribbler 1/31/2007 05:58:00 PM  

Very good point, Lainey! I like that. In fact, I need to start teaching the difference between best and personal best. Thanks!

Oh thanks, Erik! You make me blush!

Zoe, you're right, it is so sad! Regret just might be one of the most tragic of emotions.