Honey, I Depressed The Kids

“Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” William Faulkner (1897 – 1962)

I awoke yesterday to the news that children in our country are being poisoned by junk culture. This referred to a letter sent to the Telegraph by Baroness Susan Greenfield (Director of the Royal Institute and Professor of Pharmacology), author Michael Morpurgo and 109 others. Junk food, a test-driven curriculum and a general lack of time feature among the problems described. Depression and concentration problems are two of the symptoms. Rather than simply complaining, the purpose of the letter is to spark interest in a national debate on childcare in the 21st century.

An articulate and detailed explanation of concerns, and evidence for them, appeared in an 13-minute interview on Radio 4’s
Today (you need to look for “cocktail of modern culture” at the 08:10 mark) with the aforementioned writers. Their list of problems increases to include: a huge reduction in physical playing space; intensive marketing whose aim is to turn children into little adults; the replacement of the idea by the icon and the absence of the conceptual framework which enables adults to cope with our rapidly changing world.

I have to admit to some incongruity at the time of listening as I was preparing for the final lesson of NBHS pupils before embarking on our Music Camp next week – in which we will enjoy 6.2 hours of rehearsal in 1.5 days. Call me old fashioned, but that seems like concentration to me.

In many previous posts I have detailed why matters of technique and comprehension need to become reflex actions in order to keep up with the demands of the beat. On reflection, I have neglected to describe the virtues of slow music which, for player and listener alike, can silence the tyranny of the clock – albeit for a limited time (who says the Scots don’t do irony). Hopefully pupils have time to experience the space between the notes and the freedom it brings. I have witnessed many times (especially during the first period after lunch) pupils enjoying the spaces between my words. Often, the spaces have been so effective that they constitute the only memorable part of the lesson. I wonder if the proposed public debate will include the suggestion of a siesta for pupils. After all, for us, it is a well established constituent of the job – unless I am mistaken in my understanding of CPD (Completely Prone Disengagement).