Yo-Yo Ma: ‘I’m turning 60 and I want…’

The cellist will reach his 60th birthday on October 7 and he’s telling jokes about ageing, après-ski and senior bus passes in an interview with Martin Steinberg for the forthcoming November issue of Strings magazine. But he’s also got major issues on his mind.

Where did our high school subjects come from? Our studies are from 1910, so [do] we need to reboot that? How does art fit into that, how does that fit into arts funding and science funding? What are we educating our children for? Is it a transactional thing? Do you pay that money in order to get better jobs or is there something about education that is different? 

Read the full interview here.

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  • We would be so lucky if students now emerged from high school as skilled and knowledgable as the average student of 1910. For one thing they would all be attending live concerts! We continue to benefit daily from the fruits of their toil, and yet feel smug enough to deride an older generation? This smacks of SJW-ism.

  • I don’t know about Europe, the UK, or Asia, but in the US our high school subjects are certainly not what they were in 1910. “Home Ec” is all but gone, along with shop. Typing is gone everywhere, and shorthand bit the dust 30 years ago. We’ve added a plethora of computer classes. Alas, schooling isn’t what it used to be though. Students today have miserable handwriting. They can’t do basic arithmetic in their heads. Spelling, even of simple words, is lacking. Their knowledge of history is pathetic. Their knowledge of the humanities is horrifying: many know nothing of Shakespeare, Beethoven, and company. The young have little interest in classical music, opera, or intelligent cinema.

    • They are not taught writing: they are taught that all they will ever need to know how to write is their signatures. They are not taught grammar or spelling — I think politics has made rules of language somehow “oppressive” or “sexist,” and anyway there is spellcheck and, in good word processing programmes, grammar-check. They are not taught to compute: they are taught how to use calculators. They are taught minimal reading: I know a young woman completing her DOCTORATE in literature without having done Shakespeare. She opted to pass every time it was on offer because “I don’t like drama.”

      So we are back to the three Rs: and nobody is left who knows how to teach them.

      How in God’s name, which is also an unfamiliar one to most of those who might once have been loosely categorised as “Christian” (can’t speak for others), can people with such “educations” be expected to appreciate classical music, opera or intelligent cinema? Video games, blockbusters, apps: these are their “culture.” But are they only a generation or two away from not having anyone to provide content?

      • “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

        ― Socrates

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