66. The Rise and Fall of Computerized Education
Play on instruments is mostly taught through hourly private lessons, and doesn’t come cheap. This has continued for so many generations that it is regarded as the classic norm. Nearly every person that can play music is an individual product of hourly lessons. Imagine if other basic subjects were taught this way: math, physics, biology, language. How many educated specialists would our society have produced?
Computers gave a renewed nudge towards the solution to this problem. Many musicians and programmers dove in at once to create software for music education, connecting the computer and instrument into one system. Everyone awaited a miracle from the Technological Revolution. It was expected that computerization would conquer the problem of common music illiteracy in the coming years.
In the states, electronic music studios opened one after the other. Lessons there were markedly less expensive thanks to mass production. And, understandably, the musicians’ relationship to them wasn’t simple. Music teachers split into two parties. The “Conservatives” categorically rejected the computer’s ability to teach “beautiful art” and thought the attempts at teaching with a “soulless machine” to be barbaric. The “Computerists” were convinced that only a computer could really teach music, connected into the process with interactivity and graphics.
However, the huge enthusiasm of the Computerists has been warped by years of disillusionment. Most of the companies that made programs for learning the music language were ruined. The demand for their production simply didn’t overcome their expenses. Those expecting progress were left in confusion. The Conservatives celebrated victory.
Meanwhile, the failure of the computer programs of that time can be explained quite simply: they didn’t change the approach to the perception at all. The same old ineffective system of music education remained at their core. The elements of play, colored graphics and interactivity only sweetened the bitter pill of the usual method. They couldn’t teach people to master the language of music. You can change anything you’d like in an old car: the body, steering wheel and tires, you can even install an A.C. and a TV screen. But until the broken engine is replaced, the car will remain a piece of junk that nobody needs.
The “motor” of any method is its effectiveness with students. If the alphabet system for note names doesn’t help the development of hearing and voice, no amount of graphics will change this attribute. And if theory is separated from action, the perception isn’t interested, and no interactivity will make it more wanted, nor memorable.
The computerization of ineffective methods only worsens them. For years, traditional pedagogy held on to human interaction, picking out exclusively the most talented and working with them. Not contributing anything new, the computer took away even that, making education soulless and mechanical.