Depressing ignorance

  • Depressing ignorance

    Undergraduates and Franz Joseph Haydn

    I'm a philosopher, teaching at the University of Oxford. One of the papers that I teach is on J.S. Mill (part of the first-year philosophy course). Now, in Roger Crisp's introduction to Mill he uses a thought experiment involving a comparison of two lives: that of an immortal oyster - capable of only rudimentary, low-level ("lower") pleasure - and that of the relatively short-lived Haydn, capable of developed, intense ("higher") pleasure.

    Some undergraduates have only read his book, some have only heard Roger give lectures. The vast majority of the former spell "Haydn" correctly but pronounce it as Hayden; the vast majority of the latter pronounce it correctly, but mispell it in a wide variety of ways. Few of them have any idea who is being referred to. What's happening to the world?

    (I should say that this is only one symptom; I could bore you with many more.)

    • ankitruva a dit :...
    • Utilisateur
    • 18 fév. 2008, 9h52m
    How is music education in the UK (at the high school level, or at lower levels)? How is the history of classical music taught?

  • The simple answer is that it isn't. Music is available as a GCSE or "A"-level course (the former usually examined at 16, the latter at 18), but they're not commonly chosen by pupils, and they're not available at all schools.

    The same applied to me (I didn't take music, as it required playing the piano, and we didn't have one), but it didn't stop me from discovering a wide range of music when I was at school. The real problem is that, increasingly, we're faced with candidates (who are supposed to be the cream of the cream) who know little or nothing outside their schoolwork -- who show no independent interest in reading, music (aside from the usual teenage peer-group tastes), etc. There are plenty of exceptions, though -- enough that I don't get too depressed. It's noticeable, though, that knowledge of the history of music is almost always found in those who are proficient on an instrument.

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