Talent Education

Besides being a part-time librarian, writer, etc., I also instruct violin to a dozen students age five to fifty-one. My teaching methods are heavily influenced by the philosophies of Shinichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist who believed in the high potential of every human being, not just the seemingly gifted.

[T]he only superior quality a child can have at birth," wrote Suzuki in 1978, "is the ability to adapt itself with more speed and sensitivity to its environment than others."

Talent, according to Suzuki and his many adherents, is
not inborn or inherited, but acquired through a process founded on the mother tongue concept; all children of every culture, when immersed in their language from birth, learn to speak their native tongue with expertise. Similar immersion in a musical home environment, assures Suzuki, develops an equal fluency in music.

He gives the example of a wild nightingale. In Japan, baby birds are captured to be used as pets, and put under the tutelage of a tame "master bird." Exposure to the master's fine voice eventually develops an equally beautiful song in the young nightingale. "Talent," skillful ability, is nurtured, with astonishing results.

But how does this philosophy fit with the Christian belief that talent--musical, literary, and otherwise--is a gift from God? Matthew 25 is often cited as an example of God-given abilities requiring faithful stewardship. John Calvin, in his
Institutes, agrees that "the talents which we possess are not from ourselves."

Is every human born with equal potential? Does so much hang on
the ability to adapt yourself with speed and sensitivity? At what point does created talent become acquired talent? What are your thoughts?


Emme said...

I think we have a lot more untapped talent than what we even realize. Sure, it's God-given, and some have more passion and even an easier time of learning certain things. We are unique in our capabilities, but there are so many things we could be capable of if we would apply ourselve. The younger we start, the easier it is. If I had been listening to Russian, as well as English since I was a baby, I would speak it fluently. And if I had been listening to jazz since I was a toddler, and trying to imitate it, I could probably do that too.

Holly said...

I think...that after a certain point, it's not meaningful to separate inclination from natural talent.

Heidi said...

I just saw this post...

Talent definitely comes with God. In one of my Linguistics classes, we studied bird song and were taught that birds imitate the song of those around them. They can't be compared to humans in the sense of talent. If the same baby bird was captured and left on his own, he wouldn't be able to sing beautifully at all.

With humans, you can shape talent, and acquire skills, but the ingredients need to be there to work with. Ingredients from God. :)