Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Three Languages

As grandfather of a 9-month old and son of a 91-year old, it is more clear than ever that we are well served by speaking several languages. I’m not talking about English, Spanish and Mandarin, as exciting as useful as such language proficiency is. I mean the languages before the mother tongue kicks in and after it has exhausted its usefulness. I’m speaking about the language of touch and movement and the language of tones and rhythms. And Orff Schulwerk, that dynamic pedagogy of music and movement and the place where I have so happily and fortunately made my home, has proven to be the training ground for the tri-lingual proficiency that has been both useful and spiritually uplifting.

A friend recently was complaining that there was nothing to talk about when he visited his aging Dad. His father was far beyond caring about or even understanding the gossip of who’s who and what’s what, the latest catastrophe in the newspaper or news about the grandchildren. Without the usual banter of small talk, what was there to do? And here’s where proficiency in the language of touch and the ability to play music or sing songs would have served my friend—and his Dad—well. Do we think enough about this when making decisions about school music programs or keeping dance outside the school gates?

Mostly school cares about the middle part of life, after the toddler has learned to walk and talk and before the elder begins the transition to the other world. How to succeed in business and get ahead and manage a bank account and negogiate a mortgage and occasionally, how to stay cultured through season tickets to the opera and meetings with the book club. This makes sense. Up to a point. Up to the point when you need to converse with a 9-month old or a 90-year old.

And so I’m suggesting the tri-lingual school of language, music, dance. Embedded in all is enough math and art and history and social studies for any school board’s taste, especially for teachers who understand who to reveal it. (Local teachers, come to my five-workshop series on the Integrated Curriculum this year to get the details of how— info on my Website www.douggoodkin.com). If we have enough money in the budget or the teachers make enough in bake sales, we might include science and computer studies and such, but first and foremost, students must learn to speak these other languages when mere words and numbers fail to say what needs to be said. And when we must talk, for goodness sake, let your speech sing out, punctuated with gesture and an animated face and an expressive voice. As I say to my students in all my courses, let out that three-year old who doesn’t yet know that people can talk without moving their hands with faces of bland newscasters.

Then next time you see the grandkid or grandfather, won’t you have a grand old time!

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