why children shouldn’t have to ‘learn lessons’ from the arts

Whilst driving I often listen to the news on South Africa’s national Afrikaans radio service. On some days this is preceded (or followed – I can’t remember) by a children’s programme. The most annoying thing about these programmes is that there’s always a lesson to be learned: don’t do this, don’t do that, this is good for you, this is bad for you. It’s unfortunately also the case with a large amount of children’s and youth literature. Whatever happened to writers of these books/stories just letting their minds go wild, indulging in flights of fantasy? In my ‘not educated in the field of educational psychology’ opinion, a lack of moral lessons is more likely to inspire them to be creative.

This brings me to today’s video. It’s a cartoon aired in the late 1970s on the long-running American children’s series, Sesame Street. The score is by American ‘minimalist’ composer, Philip Glass (b. 1937), who is known by the general population for his scores for films such as The Truman Show and The Hours. I’m pretty sure the cartoon’s presentation of geometric shapes is not meant to be a lesson in mathematics – it’s more likely meant to be purely abstract. Glass’s repetitive music lends to it a creepy quality that supports my interpretation. And thankfully we don’t have to learn a lesson from the voice part.

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in defence of beauty

I only recently found out about the existence of the twenty-nine year old Russian soprano, Aida Garifullina. Now let’s face it – videos on youtube of classical singers performing inspire the most comments from a peanut gallery of viewers who have yet to take a singing lesson or set foot on a stage. They all long for the days when good singers were still alive (apparently there will never be one again). The worst of all is this: some of Ms Garifullina’s videos have inspired a plethora of misogynistic (= strongly prejudiced against women) comments that come down to ‘she’s only a pretty face and therefore has no talent’. (One often sees this in the world of academia as well – if you blow-dry your hair and put on make-up you can’t possibly be a good professor.) Ms Garifullina has put in the years of hard training and devotion. She is not a bimbo with a vibrato, discovered by the likes of Russia’s got Talent, receiving accolades based on sympathy for a having a deceased pet or family member. She was the 2013 winner of the prestigious Operalia competition and is an ensemble member of the Vienna State Opera. Her rendition of Musetta’s aria from Puccini’s La Bohéme is by far my favourite.