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Life in the Ivory tower – II.

Life in the Ivory tower – II.

Life in the Ivory tower – II.

Written by Csaba Tőri

27 March 2019

(First part of this article: Life in the ivory tower? – I.)

However in the 21st century there’s a distance between people, because of the technology and urbanization developments, we still walk by hundreds of people per day. Who knows how many Kossuth-award winning academic we’re passing by a day without knowing their incredible work. And if is true, we can’t even decide how much value they create for the world if somewhen the antidote to cancer will be discovered.

People working in the cultural industry has been constantly drawn up for ages: it’s necessary to be open with people and involve general public. However sometimes when curious people come in they are judged immediately for not knowing anything about high art. If not verbally, the works themselves address such a narrow audience that they implicitly convey this value-judgment. And the ivory tower gets its revenge: though there were some amazing results in very high quality, but still not many people know about these, so they can’t really appreciate it.

That’s why teaching is an amazing opportunity: if the school provides a wide perspective, the process starts and becomes self-stimulating. Those who’ve learnt arts, probably will never turn away from it. But those who didn’t get this experience at school, are still able to get this knowledge, with the help of the professionals.

That is why many artists get huge amount of money even though, people think (often rightly) they don’t add much value to the world.

There’s a value that is conveyed better way than anything else: music and literature belongs to everyone. Though they don’t reach their audience the same way as the greatest artist, they find a way to spread their work. By commercials and marketing.

However, I think it’s important to express my belief: I think there’s a balance between the two types. As symphonic bands are giving numerous movie-music-concerts these days, they often show their audiences that the movie world is not that far from Wagner or Beethoven. Those who grow up on movies can also start getting to know this world and can make just as good discoveries. After a while those who go to concerts will eventually start to enjoy listening to Bach or Bartok more than before.
What it is, if not an adult education concept with a very positive purpose: for everyone to develop in the area that we consider important. It’s wonderful to see how many people come to their first Carmina-Burana concert so that later on, they could even feel the value of Psalmus Hungaricus through the Beethoven Symphonies.

What I’m really sad about is that the viewpoint of the ivory tower, guided by a sense of goodwill and a desire to preserve values, when lighter genres appear (for example, fictions can make people bookworms), we plant a sense of guilt into the students, which then leads to a deepening of distance. As a consequence, they won’t be able to provide values which will be loved by many, and they won’t have enough connection with everyday people, so there will be no one to ask for the true value of their knowledge. Moreover, it becomes a tradition and will be passed on through generations.

If it could be possible to launch big changes in this world, it would be worth to have two pillars: maximalism at art and at the value creation. Creating joy in a language that the person understands is also a value, and always in a way that leads him/her a little bit forward. I don’t like the kind of joy creation that leads the listener towards lameness but playing and singing movie-music – processing a cartoon hit does not belong here: it can create huge value at a high level.
And then the previously analysed financial aim will be born easier: ask for the price of the value we give. It’s good for everybody: the artist/doctor/teacher will continue to do what they love and dedicated to in the coming decades, won’t stop and go to the supermarket store – just to support his/her family.

All in all, the one who pays the value of what he/she uses, gives him/her the authority to dare to research, teach and try next time: there will be someone to do all these for, next time as well.

Life in the ivory tower? – I.

Life in the ivory tower? – I.

Life in the ivory tower? – I.

Written by Csaba Tőri

20 March 2019

The following question arises on countless occasions: is it worth playing music as a profession in this modern world, should we let our children enter the music field, or does it mean several financial issues and problems?

There are people who’re so committed that it doesn’t even worth talking them out of it. But there are people, who are interested in different professions and they even have the talent needed. How can they decide whether to enter the music community or not and which things help them make this serious decision?

Of course, the best thing would be if everyone could get well-paid for doing what they love. But it isn’t good if the professionalism is so strong that you’re satisfied with low salary – in other parts of your life it can cause serious problems in the future.

Nowadays, many people working on certain fields where don’t get enough salary to be able to live a healthy life. Even though it’s the same in other countries too, it doesn’t mean that it is easy for people dealing with this issue every month. People working as a nurse, a bus driver, a teacher, a social worker or even as a doctor get a salary that is not even close to the lower end of the wage range.

Let’s forget about the bad consequences it can cause for a moment and let’s try to think differently.

As we try to examine what decides the amount of salary given to the workers of each job, it’s easy to recognize that certain professions are moving at a generally higher wage level, while other workers are low-paid even they think that the importance of their job is higher.

After talking about this topic a lot (which lead to several conflicts about whose job is better etc.), I started to realize that the “importance” is totally subjective. There are just a few people that can fully understand all the different specializations, if there is any. However, it’s a good measure of how much society considers it important. Of course, we don’t have a full range of knowledge (and the consumer society commercials also affect our desire), but we must admit that we can spend a lot of money on things that we consider as important one.

I can give you a good example that happens a lot to me: sometimes I don’t want to spend 500 forints on half a kilo of oranges (because it’s relatively expensive) but I can spend 700 forints on two packs of chips with no problem because it was on sale, but it was only 200 gramms.

If we look at the price-value rate, it is striking that we attribute some value to everything, and if (comparing to our value to the product) the product is being sold cheaper, we’ll buy it. And if we see a 40 forints worth of pastry we consider it too cheap, that is probably not even good.

But what decides the value of something on our minds?

(Sorry about the long financial attachment, I’ll turn back to the musical side of it.)
We’re more likely to believe what we see, that’s why commercials are so successful. Commercials need to influence people to buy that product, so it is made to make people emotionally connected to the product.

It’s not surprising that when I was a child, I’ve seen more chips commercials than orange ones. Maybe that’s why I felt more attracted to chips than oranges (and because as a child I wasn’t allowed to eat as many packs of chips as I wanted to because it’s unhealthy and my parents didn’t let me do it).

Because of that as the years passed by, I couldn’t help but buy chips that was on sale. I felt more attracted to a 200 g of unhealthy stuff for 700 forints, than to 1 kilo of oranges full of vitamin for 500 forints.

This long introduction was important because the same process can be tracked in several steps in the proportion of wages between different professions. So, what decides how much we value the job of a doctor, a social worker, or a nurse etc.?

Setting the right price is even harder because in this case commercials do not help us. There’s no specific product so it’s difficult to identify exactly its  value: we need doctors in case of emergency, and feel the importance of disinsectisation when we have to face with the bedbugs.

If a bus driver/carpenter/fast food waiter doesn’t get paid, doesn’t get the expected wage, that he/she won’t go to work tomorrow. There are some serious collective contracts that guarantee that this person will eventually go in at least if he/she expect the situation to improve over time. As a consequence, the importance of his/her job will be moved higher.

On the other hand, a doctor/nurse/teacher chooses his/her job because of the dedication and quality of the job. They will do their job even if they don’t get enough money for it. A doctor wouldn’t go on strike and miss saving patients’ life because they’re not satisfied with their salary. Unfortunately, this unintentionally pushes down the value of their work.

It’s also bad going on strike as a teacher, skipping lessons for weeks: we teach the kids, because their life is important to us. Sometimes their lives become more important than ours, because we’re grateful for the predecessors who did the same for us.

It only takes a few steps from this to start making more compromises, and even if we don’t get enough money to make a living, we keep on working, because the sense of vocation is as important in our life as the financial security. But it means that we make more value of it, than we can earn. Everyone has been accepting a smaller sum for years, so this image of value for society has been already on this unrealistically low amount. It’s a reversed example but it’s very similar to cartel, but now at low prices.

Because of the lack of market competitions, those jobs where the sense of vocation is crucial, can get valuable wages if they ask for the price of their work, even though it’ll hurt in the first period to leave school/hospital for a while. As soon as everyone requires a certain appreciation, changes will happen.

This question is similar for the musicians as well. In this culture at least there are some market competition. However, in the history of humanity, authors, painters, musicians didn’t make a living out of their basic earnings, but instead they gave private lessons to get enough money – so that they can write their 9th symphony-maybe even for free.

These days it’s clear that the true value has no price. But we want to create it even if nobody pays for it. But this has some serious consequences. The ivory tower came into existence: high-cultural people, actually create things for each other – but people outside the tower are almost unaware of what’s happening inside.

(Second part of this article: Life in the ivory tower? – II.)

„Motivate” and motivate

„Motivate” and motivate

“Motivate” and motivate

Written by Csaba Tőri

19 November 2018

I met a thought-provoking idea in a course that has changed my view about the world: ‘It is impossible to motivate.’

As a teacher this is a pretty bad news, if it’s true – moreover inside of my mind it was occurring immediately: what if this is just tricks with words? What does motivation mean for me, what it could mean for others – isn’t it possible that we simple think of different things?

Then it turned out that there is much to understand in it for me.

In my childhood in the school environment where we were raised up, there was just a few things to do freely in our free-time, and they were mostly obligatory or at least expected behaviours. (Is there anyone who saw the third season of the serial Therapy?

Our motivation towards certain topics couldn’t emerge: we did what we were allowed to do – and what we had to. And after a while we found pleasure in it: not because of the topic itself but instead the reinforcement from outside.

For a young child it is a great experience when the teacher gives full marks them for the well-done tasks, especially if they get chocolate for it, it will bring extra enthusiasm. (I won’t egg you to forget about this. Just in order to understand motivation on a deeper level, we must denude it.)

So, it doesn’t seem to be true that if I look at motivation, look back to my motivation as if I got to like singing, because my teachers induced me to do the right music, and that’s why I felt like doing it. (Once again, I must say it: I am not against giving full marks this way, since it can be an experience for the kids, and they could get love a topic when they understand their structure. I do not even criticize my teachers – I remember to most of my teachers as ones I liked to go to, and later, during my studies I realized that they could teach wonderfully. But it isn’t about motivation.)

The next sentence of this course was: “you can only strengthen motivation in those people where there was a seed of it. If you don’t have tiny little motivation in you towards a topic, there you won’t have it.

You can be motivated in different ways: there is a motivation that comes from outside, when I am working for a purpose, I do something for someone’s sake. And there is an inner motivation, when I do something for my sake, for my pleasure, to make myself happy or to recharge myself back.  I think we tend to believe that there are topics where it is impossible, so we accept that for example we need to force ourselves to do long tasks in work, otherwise it won’t be ready at all.

Apart from some of the tasks that are like this, in most of the issues we have more choices than we allow to ourselves.

As a teacher I had to face the fact that pupils are not interested in the things I would like to teach them: they are not interested in that way or time, or at all. As a bad response for that – based on my experience from my childhood –, I thought that there can be only two solutions for that: either I do not teach good enough, interesting enough and I do not raise their attention or I do not expect them enough to take the task seriously. It’s a pity that it takes so much time to realize that although both of them could be true, none of them could bring so much improvement that  can solve this problem: most of the kids isn’t interested in this type of education, especially music education anymore that was acceptable earlier for them.

Moreover, the forms of being not-interested-in has changed a lot (fortunately according to my opinion…): earlier the signs of it were supressed with giving respect by not showing it, but nowadays it is expressed much more easier and frankly by both the children and adults. (For example, by falling asleep, or saying nuts according to them).

Of course in an ideal situation a golden mean like one would be fine, but it is not a surprise that after so many decades and centuries where to measure up to the expectation was an absolute norm, in the first liberated moments we throw out the baby with the bath water.

We always want to believe in that the most the processes of civilization go in the right direction. (It would be a pity if we would destroy this, because for example we refer to that there is no climate change)

So returning to the subject: in a lot of situations we talk about motivation, where it is not about it, like we think we are motivated: but at least on the level of everyday duties we work, we could give ourselves to believe that we accept the necessary bad things. We complete the hated homework, read the required readings that are not proper for the age group, and do 3-4 hours overwork even if we do not feel like doing it. And finally, next week we stay at home on sick pay.

It would be so nice for me, if we could start to think about motivation in another way: everybody is interested in something, supposedly that with appropriate compensation all the tasks could be completed, we are enough for doing that.

To stay at my own example: for organizing a concert we need the desire of the singers to come into existence. But among them there will be some people who come for the joy of singing, some because of the exciting piece, and some people because they love others. (About the other dozens of resources of motivation experts who know more could write about it.

As soon as we found (or at least we try to find) these desires, most likely we could be productive, everybody takes part in the common work too with more pleasure.

A hypothesis occurred to me: there can be a world where no one (literally nobody) should do his duty by necessity. This world is far-far away from now, but probably pedagogy would help to reach there, if teachers could become so much attentive.

We started an experiment with one of my classes, after I found an article about disapproving the necessity of grading and replaced it with an evaluation system with scores. The result we experienced was surprising: we could achieve the double amount of the duties than before, although the tasks didn’t change, and the participants were almost the same.

Only one thing has changed: it was not obligatory anymore – if you do not complete it you won’t fail – and I do not need to worry about how to get people to do it if they do not want it. Furthermore: if I am not able to get them to do it – how the others would comment it…

It seems to be true that it works in small. I trust in that it is adaptable for more educational systems. In this topic there are a lot of valuable articles: if you feel motivated a bit, they will increase it.