I remember loving pencils. I was fond of paper. I loved the small of textbooks. I loved the way the light from a desk lamp was bright on a page. I loved the smell of fresh-cut grass. It was a thing everybody loved, but there was no shame in being that much like everybody else, in sharing that.
Today at school I will learn to read at once; then tomorrow I will begin to write, and the day after tomorrow to cipher. Then with my acquirements I will earn a great deal of money, and with the first money I have in my pocket I will immediately buy for my papa a beautiful new cloth coat. But what am I saying? Cloth, indeed! It shall be all made of gold and silver, and it shall have diamond buttons. That poor man really deserves it; for to buy me books and to have me taught he has remained in his shirt sleeves... And in this cold! It is only fathers who are capable of such sacrifices!...
Hard fun is, of course, the idea that we take pleasure in accomplishing something difficult: the joy in meeting and mastering a challenge. As a result, when someone is doing something that is hard fun, moment by moment it looks more like "work" than "fun," but the net effect is pleasurable overall.
We have become obsessed with what is good about small classrooms and oblivious about what also can be good about large classes. It’s a strange thing isn't it, to have an educational philosophy that thinks of the other students in the classroom with your child as competitors for the attention of the teacher and not allies in the adventure of learning.
I received comments on how extraordinary it was that I could keep up speaking for exactly 45 minutes. Indeed, in an age of soundbites lasting some seconds and of quick quotes in the news, all those minutes do seem like an eternity, easy to get lost in. Yet, wait a moment. Television is not the only place where speeches are given. Some hundred thousand teachers teach every day. They all speak 45 minutes, more times a day. They have been doing this for years. Every teacher knows exactly when the time will be over and that by then his speech will need to come to a natural end. It is this tension that determines the success of a lesson. It is a sign of the times that we forget these daily achievements in education. A million students daily attend several ‘live’ lectures and this in secondary education alone. These are high ratings!
Simply put, the best teachers believe that learning involves both personal and intellectual development and that neither the ability to think nor the qualities of being a mature human are immutable. People can change, and those changes--not just the accumulation of information--represent true learning.
Taking the alphabet first and learning one letter a year for twenty-six years he will be able to read and write as early in life as he ought to. If we were more careful not to teach our children to read in their childhood we should not be so anxious about the effects of pernicious literature upon their adolescent morals.
Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to discover the child's natural bent.
Years and years ago, I read a great interview with Jam and Lewis, the R&B producers, in which they described what it was like to be members of Prince's band. They'd sit down, and Prince would tell them what he wanted them to play, and they'd explain that they couldn't--they weren't quick enough, or good enough. And Prince would push them and push them until they mastered it, and then just when they were feeling pleased with themselves for accomplishing something they didn't know they had the capacity for, he'd tell them the dance steps he needed to accompany the music.
This story has stuck with me, I think, because it seems like an encapsulation of the very best and most exciting kind of creative process.