Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nurtured by Love

Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki, is not what I expected at all.

I was pretty dubious once Suzuki started using the wolf children story. At this point I was already finding myself on the fence about the theory behind Suzuki's world renowned teaching method. On the one hand, I believe that a person can acquire just about any new skill with diligence, practice, and focus. On the other hand, I believe each of us has certain strengths and weaknesses. Some people are more prone to learning quickly. Some people have a greater inclination for music than others. Some people are better with words and some with pictures. Is this merely a result of our earliest exposures to these things. Is it all a part of our upbringing, but we lack the ability to identify it since were were too young to remember these early experiences?

I found it thought provoking to read these early chapters and reflect on my own beliefs about the nature of personality and the origin of "talent."

Still, when I started reading about the wolf children, I almost gave up and moved on to the next book. At this point, I found my expectations about Suzuki's book to be disappointed. I had expected much more of the details surrounding his Talent Education teaching method -- more of the process, and philosophy and less nonsense about wolf children and repetitions of the same idea over and over. I expected more talk of nurturing and love and less talk about the origin of talent, nightingales, and wolf children.

But I plodded on. I read through the worst of the nonsense. I read through Suzuki's stories of little Koji Toyoda and his growth to adulthood as an exceptional musician. Finally, around page 41, I saw the book begin to change. Suzuki begins to talk much less about his ideas and his pupils, and much more about himself. He tells stories of his life after WW1 and WW2. He tells us about his childhood and the lessons he learned from his father. He talks about his influences: literary, musical, and social. We get to see the development of the man who would develop the Talent Education program, and it is in his development that we see the nurturing principles and the love the makes his education program possible and beneficial.

Shinichi Suzuki was an extraordinay man to lived an extraordinary life. It's true that I probably only agree with about half of what he writes in his book, but it is undeniable that Suzuki had a deep love for mankind and a deep desire to improve the world he saw around him. Professor Clifford Cook, responsible for bringing the Talent Education Method to America, said of Suzuki, "What Suzuki has done for young children earns him a place among the benefactors of mankind" (118). Suzuki saw and lived through some terrible times in his life (both World Wars) but is the extraordinary things that he chose to let define him. It is the wonderful aspects of life that he sought to pass on to the children he taught. "If nations cooperate in raising good children," he said, "perhaps there won't be any war" (118).

"I sincerely hope that readers of this book will realize from all I have said that there is no need for any of us to despair. We were all born with a high potential, and if we try hard we can all become superior human beings and acquire talent and ability.

"If you have really understood my message, you will not put it off until tomorrow, but will put it into action right now, today. And your life will become happier as a result. That this may become true for everyone is my heartfelt dream" (121).

I recommend this book to anyone seeking to use the Talent Education method either in teaching or learning. I feel like my understanding of the principles behind the method helps me better understand the method itself and how to better utilize it in my practices. I would also recommend this book to anyone in a position to educate children: parents, caregivers, teachers. Suzuki hoped to one day see his method adopted as a method for educating children in all subjects, not just music. There are definitely clear advantages to using some of Suzuki's philosophies and methods in teaching children. I was particularly attracted to his method of helping children to think of their education as fun and interesting. I was also touched by Suzuki's great love and patience for children. If we all sought for that kind of love and patience, how much better educators would be be?

 "People today are like gardeners" (120), Suzuki says. Shinichi Suzuki was, above all else, a nurturer. A teacher once told me: If you want to develop a particular attribute, chose someone from history with that attribute, and then read everything you can about that person. Read about their lives, their experiences, their successes and failures, and see how they applied that attribute to their lives. As we study the lives of men like Suzuki, we can learn from their stories and examples and strive to develop greater love and patience within ourselves.

Suzuki, Shinichi. Nurtured by Love. New York: Exposition Press, 1969. Print.

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