This week, I finally got around to watching the movie “Whiplash.” Named after a Don Ellis classic, the movie was about the journey of Andrew, an aspiring 19 year old drummer at a music conservatory, and the teacher that pushed him to his limits. The main conflict of the movie was the fact that the teacher’s methods were somewhat aggressive and sometimes violent. Despite the fact that most people in the movie disapproved of the teacher, he stood by his belief that if he wanted to find the next great musician of the times, he should push every student as hard as possible because “the next Charlie Parker would never become discouraged.”
As someone who is used to playing at a high level in music and especially jazz, this aggressive teaching was something that I could relate to and gave me a different out look than others. Seeing how such tough love ended up being beneficial for Andrew in the movie, it got me thinking. Could our country’s tame outlook on education be hurting our top tier of students?
Of course most students, in all subjects, wouldn’t gain anything from being blindsided with high expectations and zero understanding for mistakes. But for some students, the ones who are the most encouraged and the ones driving towards success the hardest, being held to mediocrity could potentially be damaging. I remember at my high school and even here at UMD, whenever I tried to do something mildly ambitious with my course work, I was always told that wasn’t the suggested plan and could be too challenging. This is due to the tendency of the education system to lean towards the average student, trying to drag the lowest group up and never pushing the kids that are already too far ahead.
The current educational model is built to only bring students to a certain level and no higher. Students should always be encouraged to push themselves, no matter how far ahead they may be. This can never be done with the forgiving, understanding attitude of today’s educators.