Our Unschooling Adventure - which officially started in Lowell in the Fall of 2005 - now continues in Berlin.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Art of Possibility

My barbershop chorus (Nashua's Granite Statesmen) holds the annual "advance" (we never retreat!) this time of year. I am just coming back energized from the overnight event. Our talented and charismatic director Steve Tramack has been reading "The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life" by Rosamund Stone Zander and Ben Zander, and he was all charged up.

We spent quite some time over the weekend watching their training video (which is actually made for the management training market) & understanding the concepts. Ben is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and he uses his conducting experience as a springboard for his coaching practice. His music-related ideas are of course very relevant to our chorus & they are going to help us in our quest for musical excellence.

One very important concept Ben talks about in the book & the video is empowering the performer. In the traditional model, the conductor of an orchestra is the omniscient being who has the masterplan of the symphony in his head, and the musicians in the orchestra are mere pawns, incapable of independent thoughts and contributions. Ben decided to upturn this model and let the players bring their feedback and suggestions to him on a regular basis. He let them "lead from their chairs" and own the music. As a result he found that he was able to create a more enjoyable experience to everybody concerned, from the audience to the players.

The book is also surprisingly relevant to education. I immediately sensed a resonance with our unschooling philosophy in particular. Substitute the word "curriculum" for "masterplan" and you will see what I mean. Many parents and teachers think that they are omniscient beings who have all the answers. After all, what do the children know what's good for them?! Manisha and I on the other hand think that our job is to empower our children so that they can live their lives to the fullest.

I especially like the question Ben poses: How much greatness are we willing to grant [the kids]? That to me is the billion dollar question and needs a great deal of thought...


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