Newsflash: Mozart was average, just practiced a lot!
Tuesday, May 5th, 2009
Kids of America, beware! The New York Times has just given your parents the okay to ruin your lives. Op-ed writer/sadist David Brooks, summarizing recent research into the genesis of genius, dismisses Mozart’s innate talent and credits his dad, Mr. Mozart Sr., for whipping the lame young composer into a superhuman:
What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had — the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills. Mozart played a lot of piano at a very young age, so he got his 10,000 hours of practice in early and then he built from there….The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q….Instead, it’s deliberate practice.
Terrific. This is, essentially, a reckless call for child abuse. Can’t you just see parents reading this and thinking, “Hmm…so simple. Deliberate practice,” and then putting their spark-less children on a grueling arpeggio schedule?
Brooks goes on to paint a scenario in which a young girl with a “slightly above average verbal ability” is driven to practice writing just a bit harder by a serendipitous death in the family.
It would also help if one of her parents died when she was 12, infusing her with a profound sense of insecurity and fueling a desperate need for success.
Great. So now those same plotting parents have to lie in bed and figure out which of them should selflessly expire:
Wife: “Honey, you do it…you’re so much better at doing things like putting up Ikea shelves and dying than I am. And, according to that nice David Brooks in The New York Times, Bethany really needs this extra push to reach the Mozart standard.”
Husband: “But, dear, Bethany depends on you so much more. If our goal is to infuse her with insecurity, you should really be the one to bite it.”
Wife: “But you bleed so well.”
Husband: “But you will look so pretty in your coffin.”
Wife: “I always have to do everything around here!”
Well played, Mr. Brooks.