April 21, 2019

The Gift of Beauty

The gift of beauty is an option we intentionally, though unconsciously, withhold from children.

Not entirely, but partially.

And, in fact, we think it is the opposite.

By 'we', I mean many individuals, perhaps most, in a society focused on survival, a traditional way of doing things; or, pursing the sense of superiority received from material possession.

I'm going to confine my inquiry to schools.

As a parent you might worry that your child needs Practical knowledge. He or she does. You might worry that your child needs to learn to fit in to society. He or she might want to know how.

You might worry that your child be able to support her or himself. Yes, that is a concern.

Where - in this discussion - is your worry that your child learn to appreciate beauty?

Where - in this discussion - is your worry that your child learn to listen and explore for her or himself?

I was recently reading a Lecture Series in Nuclear Physics put together for Los Alamos nuclear scientists to get up to speed on the physics that would ultimately produce nuclear chain reactions. This was written and first published in 1943.

The pamphlet is about 1/3 inch thick, with 8 1/2 by 11 paper, and fairly small courier font.

It dives right into the high-level.

The nuclear arrangement of copper atoms, the electrons, protons, neutrons, the masses, the uncertainties. It reads like a school book without the fluff, written for intelligent adults. This is a very practical publication. It does not delve into the personal lives of the imminent scientists and physicists; does not address the spiritual searching of Einstein, or the personal histories of De Broglie or Niels Bohr.  All had difficulties and false starts in their theories. Great scientists contributed to the work:  arduous, slow, even painful searching in the dark, but work that saw flickers of hope and grand realizations.

For children, as for scientists, discovery is an adventure that sits at a precipice of non-knowing learning. The precipice sometimes feels like an abyss)

But we expect our children to behave like adults focused on an urgent project. The project "to understand" expands "to get good grades,"" to get social approval""to succeed."

The practical work of the physicists and engineers could not have been possible without the ocean of searching that contributed to the the final iceberg of what we refer to as the publishable "scientific discovery": the equations and concepts written therein are meant for practical results.

There is a deep paradox that adults face in relation to our children. How will they navigate the unseen world in which they live if they are force fed to produce practical results? This is the epitome of cart before the horse.

Practicality is needed in healthy balance to free searching. Practicality is the tip of the iceberg, seen at the top of enormous personal depth and capability. Educators often forget to nourish the "free searching" capacity, so as to risk sidelining what a student might be able to develop if enouraged to build what's "beneath the surface" from a young age. Hidden abilities that may not be manifest to outside eyes are the true foundation of all tangible results a child might need to possess.

And then there is one more open paradox - yes this world is full of difficulty - but to give the give of person developing the ability to find a create beauty, without diminishing the necessity of practicality - is beauty not at least as important to foster? Our futures and those of our children hinge on how we answer this question.