The Technique of Oral Choirs in Secondary Schools as a Classroom Medium for Teaching an Appreciation of Poetry
Woolfe, M. Sylvania O.S.B.
MA (Master of Arts), Education
MA (Master of Arts), Education
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Many students, especially boys, often express a definite dislike and, at times, an aversion to poetry when the poems are long. At the same time they show great lack of appreciation for the inspiring, engaging and the enriching of emotional life values of this—the greatest of the fine arts.Now the most valuable asset in life is the power of appreciation. To develop this power is one of the primary ends of educahm. It is the essence of wisdom to sense comparative values. Thus one is enabled to single out the difference between the wheat and the chaff, the true and the false, the genuine and the tawdry. One who discerns the beauties of nature is constantly discovering new wonders in the world of seas, stars, sunsets, and mountains and grows great in the contemplation of the earth's majestic manifestations.Moreover, Magner would have us know that:"Music, art, literature, science, history—all hold a wealth of enjoyment and personal enrichment for the individual who has learned to understand and appreciate them Human nature itself becomes a fruitful study only when one has learned to recognize and to prize virtue and character. All these powers are treasures of the mind, developed slowly by experience, guidance, reading, observation, travel, meditation and prayer; and so long as the mind continues to function even though material fortunes disappear they remain an abiding consolation. It has been truly said that the wise man, the man of developed appreciation, carries his wealth always with him."Moreover, Biggans, instructor in education at De Paul University, writes:"In the opinion of many, presenting poetry to the adolescent is an unenviable task. A large number of high school instructors think that the directing of learning in the field yields unfruitful results. The fact that to date many articles have been appearing in our various educational journals on the subject of "Conducting Poetry Courses" points out a general dissatisfaction, and an attempt towards adjustment."Furthermore, if poetry looms as a spectre to a teacher no undue amount of imagination is required to visualize the trepidity that fills the mind of youth when a first approach is made in this field. "The ideals of present day boys and girls of adolescence are permeated with materialism, so much so that everything is balanced on the scales of its philosophical premises," admonishes Biggans.He further states:"For the American boy reasons thus: How can poetry perfect me in the ordinary experience of a lawyer, a physician, a dentist, or a captain of industry? I shall not earn more or less because I know poetry. He fails to understand the maxim, 'Not by bread alone doth man live.'"A second reason often heard when expressions of dislike for verse are given, is "I am not interested." If this be the situation, the teacher may consider herself as responsible for the failure. It is the duty of each teacher to arouse interest in all subjects.Furthermore, Sister M. Philip persuades:"An effective way to the heart of Youth lies through the maze of his sharp and keen emotions. And because poetry, especially Catholic poetry, has the power of elevating and sanctifying emotion, it is up to the teaching profession to place it within the reach of our boys and girls."But how can we do this? How combat the present opposition to a media of expression with which our students are sometimes wholly unacquainted, and a subtlety of appeal to which they are often unresponsive?Significantly contributory is the following response:"But youth loves to sing, and verse choir or choric speech right in the classroom contains, I think, the open sesame to the problem. There are always, of course, a select few who Could be beautifully trained. But Our Concern here is with the average high school clasy, for Beauty should be not a delicacy for the few, but common bread for the multitude.And we, upon whose shoulders lies the responsibility of leading youth to enjoy poetry, need above all thingy dauntlessness and daring to weather the vicissitudes inseparable from the venture, namely the initial unresponsiveness or the glance of cold appraisal with which our enthusiasm may be received. For youth is paradoxical and frequently seeming apathy or sophistication is a mere cloak for shyness."