He Who Can, Does: He Who Can Not, Teaches?
“He Who Can, Does: He Who Can Not, Teaches”– George Bernard Shaw, 1903.
Really? But I thought, “It takes a village to raise a child”– Hillary Rodham Clinton, 1996. Teaching is certainly part of raising a human being. 93 transformative years and the opposite sex separate these quotes. Followed by “No Child Left Behind”– George W. Bush, 2001 and most recently, the harsh reality of the arts programs cut to bare bones in American public schools.
Thinking about all of this I glance at my bulletin board in my studio.
I see the photocopied piece of paper that says: “Why Teach Music?” and you know what? Not even a split second of hesitation restrains my answer.
I teach music because I am compelled to pass on the gift that was given to me. I am overwhelmed with the honor and responsibility I have when I am entrusted with a child. I am overjoyed when the beginning lessons unfold into the deeper truths that my students young and old take with them and apply in other areas of their lives. I am touched when I realize that I too am learning, broadening, and stretching because of the impact students have on my life.
So I reach for that piece of paper tacked to the corner of my bulletin board. In short it says music is a science because it is exact and specific. It uses charts and graphs indicating frequencies, intensities and timing. It is mathematical because of the rhythm, subdivisions and fractions. It involves a foreign language, typically Italian. Music is historical and reflects the time, place and culture in which it was written. It is physical education because it requires hand-eye coordination, and both small and large motor skill coordination. Music is art, it allows a human being to take all these dry, technically boring (but difficult) techniques and use them to create emotion. That is one thing science cannot duplicate: human feeling.
Continuing from this faded photo copy I can sincerely quote the final words: I teach music, “NOT because I expect you to major in music; NOT because I expect you to play or sing all your life; NOT so you can relax; NOT so you can have fun; BUT-
so you will be human
so you will recognize beauty
so you will be sensitive
so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world
so you will have something to cling to
so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good – in short, more life.
And finally, I teach music because I can; and I do.
So when I hear the George Bernard Shaw quote applied to a fellow teacher of anything, particularly an art, I remember that it does in fact take a village in order to raise a child so no child will be left behind. That child may be the ever teachable part of each and everyone one of us, regardless of age. Also, I remind myself that we all are teachers all of the time while we are all students in this very small classroom called earth.