What is genius?
Most of us grew up believing that genius is inherent in certain lucky people. Similarly, “talent” is often considered to be some sort of genetic trait. Stories of savants, from Mozart to Fischer, perpetuate this idea. Particularly in music, an inordinate amount of attention is given to prodigies who play sophisticated music at a very young age.
Is genius genetic? Is talent luck?
As a Constructionist teacher and advocate for Genius Hour and 20% Time in Education, I have inquired substantially into Interest-Driven Learning, Connected Learning, Social Creativity, and Independent Inquiry. Leaders in these movements need concrete models to help inspire in learners the idea that genius is not granted, but built.
|Legendary jazz pianist, Bill Evans.
|Bill Evans is one such artist. He is arguably the most influential modern jazz pianist and universally renowned as a genius. However, as you will see in the video, his opinions about ‘talent’ differ dramatically from the popular view. The video begins with a suitably reverent introduction from actor and musician, Steve Allen.
Evans’ comments about jazz not as a genre or style, but as a ‘mental process’, and about the analytical nature of the creative process, should resonate well with teachers.
In Part Two, he elaborates (and argues with his brother, the interviewer) on the importance of honesty and the development of fundamental skills in the inquiry and mastery processes. There’s also an interesting demonstration of musical form and jazz improvisation.
Part Three is probably of most interest to teachers. Finally, Bill discusses his development as a musician and improviser.
‘The whole process … is to take these problems from the outer level in, one-by-one, and to stay with it at a very intense concentration level until that process becomes secondary…’
I like what he says about the importance of teaching ‘principles’, rather than ‘style’, and the primacy of the learner in deciding what to accept or reject into his or her understanding.
To me, the greatest benefit of Genius Hour and 20% Time in Education is that the focus is on the creative learning process, not curriculum. Students’ interests and passions drive their motivation. Curriculum is a tool for them to use to pursue their interests and passions. As metateachers, we design the physical, social, emotional, conceptual, and informational environments in which learners can thrive.
The rest is jazz.