The Mindbusters

In primary school I was taught a little descant recorder; I probably wasn’t any good, but I certainly enjoyed it, and understood a little music. Then I transferred to a public school (private school to Americans). It was basically a boarding school that also took ‘day-boys’ like me, but we only came in at 11, whereas the boarders started two or three classes earlier (‘prep school’). So the masters were used to working with the boarders, in loco parentis, and sometimes treated the new day-boys as a kind of hallucination that would go away if ignored for long enough.

The music master was very gifted at teaching people who knew something and were committed. My first day in his music class, however, we new day-boys were given sheet music paper and ordered to write melodies. Being unable to do so, we were humiliated and abused, in a way that still gives me nightmares. Thereafter we stayed at the back, kept our heads down and prayed not to be noticed and made to stand up and write music. Only about two years later did the music master discover, to his astonishment, that no one had ever taught us the blessed scale. It had never occurred to him to enquire, and in those days children did not challenge the schoolmaster, or even cheek him by suggesting there was something he did not know. No apology was forthcoming, nor did he attempt to remedy the deficiency, he merely ignored us all the more determinedly thereafter.

The fruit of his “teaching” of me was that, according to Urban I understand music only “limbically”. Any kind of musical terminology – all talk of notes, scales, chords, keys, sharps, flats, intervals, pitches, harmonies, melodies, counterpoint and so forth – causes instant and complete mental paralysis. For education like this, parents pay folding money? Of course they do, if it lets them say that their sprog is at such-and-such a school.

Posted on February 8, 2011 at 11:33 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: PARENTAL STATUS TECHNOLOGY, Hugo Grinebiter's Schooldays

2 Responses

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  1. Written by Ghost in the Machine
    on February 9, 2011 at 11:48

    One of the great misfortunes of so-called civilized countries, is the prevalence of “educational” institutions that are far more concerned with badges than true competence, let alone instilling curiosity and the seeds of wisdom.

    The result? Well, so-called professionals largely devoid of their critical faculties, for one — which goes a long way toward explaining the presently dire financial situation of the world (China excepted, but then again, they have a meritocracy that works). Amoral banks and other corporations, for another. Hopeless bureaucracies, incompetent and outgunned regulatory and enforcement bodies…

  2. Written by James Beck
    on February 10, 2011 at 01:49

    @Ghost: This may surprise you, but I would suggest taking the official line on China with a lot of salt. The official unemployment rate in China is about 4%, but that covers only the urban areas. Unofficially, urban unemployment is about 11%. Unofficial estimates of rural unemployment are about 40%. That gives an unofficial unemployment rate of around 25%, i.e., unemployment in China is about as high as US unemployment in the Great Depression.

    For obvious reasons, the government is extremely concerned about the ongoing drought. Likewise, China has been borrowing heavily to fund development for quite some time, and IMF’s last report lists 20% of the central government’s loans to the provinces as questionable. Everything is not as it seems.

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