"I don't want to work that hard"

A couple of days ago, Terry blogged about opera, with a follow-up here. Yesterday I was chatting with the mother of a student, someone I know and respect and with whom I share a similar age and sensibility. She'd told me when the hotline for tickets to Macbeth went live and that she'd gotten two (neither for me; I'm going with a friend in a couple of weeks). Over Break, she'd seen the show and, well, her comment is this post's title.

I think that's the problem with much art today: people perceive it as "hard work". Opera is all-singing, usually in a foreign language (and forget the subtitles!); Shakespeare is something you've had to pick apart and discuss and memorize in school; classical music is for those long-hair effete people who understand themes and motifs and counterpoint. You get the drift. It's not part of our shared entertainment culture in the way it once was.

This mother went on to talk about her recent reading, and how she's veered away from novels that are "work". Once, she'd read War and Peace for fun, but now? Yeah, right. Some other person perhaps, but not her.

The thing is, I understand this. I do like Art, and indulge as often as I can. There is a side of me, however, that doesn't want to work at understanding the plot, or diagnosing the hero/anti-hero dynamic, or figuring out why this Bach fugue is so wonderful. I just want to enjoy, and if that means more "low-brow" entertainment, well, so be it.

As I was pondering all this, I remembered a few posts about education that I've read recently. One bluntly asks if schools are broken. Many bloggers (Will Richardson, for example) talk about making school interesting, using "2.0" tools to appeal to students. My question is: are we also ensuring that they, too, won't want to work hard at something? Not all learning is easy (my struggles with math are proof enough), and not all learning is fun. Fundamentals are sometimes best taught in a kill-and-drill fashion (quick: the 12 times tables, anyone?). I often tell my Middle School student that what we're doing may seem boring or pointless, but as they internalize the research process, including citations, they'll be able to do more creative work with ease.

Rather than taking notes, they want to cut-and-paste information, or Xerox it (seriously - one kid waited for 10 minutes to make a copy of one paragraph, instead of taking 2-3 minutes to write notes). They want instant gratification, and the gurus are telling us to give them a rich experience filled with the latest in ed. tech.. Where in all this do they learn to work hard? When do they learn that not every job will include wikis and social networking?

I could go on, but again, you get the gist.

Working hard shouldn't be shied away from, in education or entertainment. We should be teaching the next generation how to do the work, and to allow them the freedom to choose which they want to do when. My guess is that schools will improve, and that attendance at the theatre and opera will increase. But what do I know? I'm Lazy.

1 comment:

Murphy Jacobs said...

You pick up on something I've run onto many times in writing workshops -- people who want to WRITE (creatively) without wanting to learn to WRITE (technically). That is, they don't want to wrestle with the nuts and bolts of language. They just want to write what they write, hook in emotionally, and get praised.

You gave me a new phrase for it -- they don't want to work that hard.

Of course, as someone who has and does work that hard (and I really don't find Shakespeare that big a challenge, and my complaints about opera are more that I don't care for the highly effected singing style most singers use, which I think just warps and blurs and...well, it irritates me) I tend to run out of patience with what I hear from the instant gratification writing crowd.

When I want instant gratification, I buy good chocolate, because, well, I'm lazy, too :)