Sunday, June 28, 2009

On Talent Education

Is talent education an oxymoron? Does it mean education specifically geared to the gifted student? A number of years ago I took out a very interesting book about what is known as the Suzuki method of teaching music. The method of teaching music was created and implemented with a wild success rate in Japan and later all over the world. Dr. Shinichi Suzuki contended that talent is something that is developed and nurtured systematically. Just like every person barring extreme circumstances is born with a natural ability to step by step learn his mother tongue with relative ease, the same is true for something like music and other disciplines. So he developed what he called the "Mother Tongue" approach to enable even very young children with the help and encouragement of their parents and teachers to learn to play a musical instrument and learn music appreciation on a surprisingly sofisticated level by breaking the instruction into very small steps that are methodically and consistently repeated over time in the same way that parents naturally teach their children to speak their native language with love, patience and consistency . Suzuki claimed and had proven that music education and talent education is possible for all students not just the most naturally talented and gifted. Recently I found a program of art instruction called the New Masters based on the same principles. The idea is to systematically and consistently in small incremental steps to teach a person the art skills that will enable them to be an artist of the caliber of the masters of old. But it takes time, effort and discipline to achieve greatness in anything, to develop one's talent. Often you find people bemoaning the fact that greatness is hard to come by these days. But why? People's brains are still made the same way, they haven't turned to oatmeal in 20th or 21st century. But based on what we said before that the issue of talent is more that of nurture and training rather than nature then we have to go back to the methods that are necessary to achieve the kind of results we would like to see and then even in our generation we will see greatness. Greatness is never achieved in a fun, quick and easy way it requires effort and discipline and most importantly time and patience. This is the Torah approach to education. This is also the trademark of all good educational methods. So let us stop moaning and keep trying to reinvent the wheel and use the old and proven methods to develop every child's innate abilities. True greatness means developing one's potential to the greatest extent possible . Even today it is definitely within our reach but it requires work.


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