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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Tuesday, December 6

The Piano Lesson Theory

For over a decade now, I've attempted to understand what it means to respect autonomy (childrens' and adults'), to avoid coercing others, to figure out common preferences, and to help children (and myself and others) learn and grow.

Still, I haven't been able to completely convince myself that the TCS definition of it makes sense (see sidebar for links to more information on Taking Children Seriously) or that if the definitions used there are correct, that coercion can't be a good thing.

I still tend to have a gut level negative feeling toward coercion at times, but it's not consistent.

The piano lesson theory seems like a good illustration of the issues I'm trying to understand.

I've heard it said many times from people who force their children to take piano lessons and practice for them that they want their children to see the benefits of studying something long term. Even if it's not fun at first, they will improve over time. They may quit playing for a while after lessons are discontinued, but eventually, they'll come back to it and enjoy being good at it and glad for being made to learn it. Some people don't even go that far. They had to take lessons and are themselves glad they learned and love music and want their children to be able to appreciate it too.

Why stop with piano? What if you had your child work for 30 minutes per day on each of a variety of things? Writing fiction? Gardening? Swimming? Drawing? Accounting? Singing? Many people already have their children working on Math, History, Science, and English. Would it be better to pick just one subject to force study on just
to "teach" them the benefits of studying something even if they don't particularly enjoy it at first and leave all the rest to the child? Which subject? How important is it to be good at any of those things? At any one thing?

What about giving your child a list of possible areas to choose from? "You have to learn 3 things, you have one month to make your selection or I'll pick them." Imagine trying to choose 3 topics that you will then be forced to study for 30 minutes a day. I sounds awful to me. Then again, it's only 1.5 hours out of 16 or so hours that I'm awake per day.

Of course, the problem isn't just about how much of a child's time is being taken up, it's about the idea of forcing to learn something against his will. Is it ever good to do that to anyone?

Sometimes, I think it's the "best" option available - in order to protect other people from harm.

1 comment:

Leo said...

Forcing piano playing to protect other people from harm? What did I miss?

Do fear your children are not learning things for what reason exactly?

Anyone can survive in western society. There is welfare to support the lazy and there are always jobs where you need no skills and your bosses are willing to train you. Your children can have miserable jobs for a while but learn skills that allow them to start their own business in the future. So survival need not to be a worry.

Do you wish your children to earn as much money as possible or that they achieve greatness?

I do not think that is your wish to have. Many people do choose a common life even when they had an opportunity for something bigger.

Are you afraid the human brain stops learning once it grows?

I think there is plenty evidence around that you can learn at any time in life.

Are you afraid your children do not learn to enjoy anything in life? Or that they don't enjoy the right things?

It seems to me it's better that children know that they can always learn and get better at anything at any point in life. That their life is their own to enjoy, not anyone else's to plan. It is enough that you control your children's lives because they are born from you and they are dependent on you, you don't need to add to it.

It's better to support laws that allow people to study and get jobs at any age than to force children to an education they do not really care about.

I also wonder if those parents that force their children to play piano really love music or hang on to it because they haven't truly found what they love, like those angry religious people that do not stand to have God's existence questioned.

Kids can get better at piano by being forced to do it, but if it's not something they really love, they will never be good enough to make something out of it. They will not become famous piano players. I haven't met anyone that wasn't passionate by their playing that was sucessful. You don't hear people say "well, I hate piano, but I am glad my parents forced me to learn it anyway". You might hear them say they are glad their parents forced them, but I think they are just saying what everyone says. What they are glad about was the opportunity to learn it, not being forced to do something they hated.

It seems to me it won't be hard for a child to understand as you do that to get good at something they have to practice a lot.

If you see me as a failure, which I believe you do, do you think I am the exception that coercion failed? Perhaps my parents weren't coercive enough, right?