Mozart Won’t Make You Smart (But Rap Will Make You Dumb)Spencer J. Quinn
After listening to Greg Johnson’s recent conversation with Rob Kievsky entitled “Leveraging Social Decline,” in particular, the part of it in which they discuss parenting, I (being a parent) felt the need to weigh in. Around the 47-minute mark, the two got into a friendly dispute over the best way to be a parent. In reality, I think both were presenting sides that seemed antithetical but really weren’t because they were each addressing different problems with their arguments.
The difference was over high-investment versus low-investment parenting. Kievsky promoted the former and provided all sorts of practical examples which show that kids who are pushed by their parents are more likely to succeed. Johnson, on the other hand, pointed to the inevitability of genetics and indicated that high-investment parenting might not in the end matter as much as we think. Of course, they are both right. I do believe, however, they both left a few things out that could reconcile their positions and which are crucial to raising children, especially these days.
Johnson got the ball rolling by mentioning the nature-versus-nurture debate and plopping down hard for the former:
The more we know about genetics, the more we realize that nurture doesn’t matter . . . Nature is stronger than nurture . . . All these books on parenting say play Mozart to your baby, read to them and all this other kinds of stuff. It will make them smarter. Actually, it doesn’t. There is no evidence that it actually makes your kids smarter . . . But if you are a brilliant person and you pass on brilliant genes and you have genes for industriousness and curiosity and agency, your kids are going to have that too. And you can actually sit back and be a laissez-faire parent and things are probably going to work out pretty much the same as if you were a high-investment helicopter parent.
When asked by Kievsky to clarify his position, he went on to say, “I think if you give your kids a lot of opportunities and let them go, that might actually be enough.”
“Don’t you think you gotta push them when they are young, though?” Kievsky asked.
Johnson then expressed some ambivalence to this. He explained that nurture is not nothing, and that parents should provide their children with opportunities as well as an orderly environment, good food, good books, edifying games, etc. Most importantly, he says, parents should immunize their children against a corrupt culture by instilling in them a sense of taste. This was basically the crux of his argument and likewise an elegant way of looking at one of the great challenges of parenting.
Again, he was correct. However, I will argue that instilling in children a sense of taste, that is, an understanding and appreciation of what is elegant and beautiful, requires exactly the kind of pushing that Kievsky promotes. In a fallen world, taste doesn’t come easy. Kievsky describes kids who are “parent-oriented” as being on a better footing than those who are “peer-oriented.” Such kids will more likely carry on their parents’ sense of taste because of the greater interaction they have with their parents, often achieved through intense churching or home schooling. However, most parents, for whatever reason, cannot homeschool and must rely on public or private education for their kids. What then? What typically happens is that, over time, parent-oriented kids become peer-oriented kids. This is a natural progression for most kids, especially teenagers. Such is the tradeoff parents must be prepared for when they sacrifice close contact with their kids for their careers and extra income.
Unlike most parents, kids, in many ways, are their social lives. How popular they are, how good they are at sports, how many friends they have, how many kids they can afford not to be friends with, and how successful they are with the opposite sex often means a lot more to them than their AP history term paper or what they scored on their math exam. In other words, for the vast majority of kids who are not homeschooled or heavily churched, popularity is capital, and school is, first and foremost, a competition to see who can acquire the most of it. Losing this competition, as I am sure we all know, hurts. In such an environment, ‘taste’, such as it is, quickly becomes a race to the bottom. It can be no other way, given that ‘high school cool’ aims to be as broad as possible and therefore must always court the lowest common cultural denominator. For a society in which artistic trendsetters spring from the small literate fraction of the population and the majority of the popular music is only one or two steps away from the church, this is not necessarily bad. The bottom in this case is still relatively high. But in a society shared with a large black population whose music, arts, and letters tend to be simple-minded, prurient, vulgar, and (especially recently) violent, that bottom line has gotten lower than we could ever have imagined.
In my article, “A White Nationalist Take on Rock and Roll,” I discussed Allan Bloom’s take on rock and roll, which was primarily an outgrowth of black musical forms such as rhythm and blues:
So how is rock ‘n’ roll sexy? Allan Bloom had a lot to say about it in his famous The Closing of the American Mind from 1987. He called rock ‘n’ roll “barbaric” and wrote that “has the beat of sexual intercourse.” Basically, rock ‘n’ roll stirs up sexual desires which threaten to control us and turn us into heathens, more or less. One cannot live a noble life, controlling one’s passions and appreciating intellectual pleasures, while listening exclusively to the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, and their ilk, according to Bloom.
If white parents wish to instill a sense of taste in our peer-oriented children in order to inoculate them against the cultural corrosion Bloom discusses, we must find ways to overcome the pervasive, bottom-feeding influence of popular culture. If your child has an IQ of 130 or higher, that might not be too difficult since he will have the innate mental agility to at least recognize the beauty in the things his parents will present to him. But since most kids, even the good ones, will be to some extent peer-oriented, instilling a sense of taste in them will require work, or “pushing” as Kievsky calls it. Mozart, Da Vinci, and Shakespeare won’t be able to do this by themselves since the yawning breach of centuries of culture will be too wide. How can a fifteen-year-old boy stir his heart listening to Mozart when he is constantly tempted to shake his hips to the latest hit from Pharrell Williams? How can Shakespeare say a thing of relevance to a fourteen-year-old girl when social media offers scandalous insider knowledge that can enhance her social standing at school?
But if pushing your children is the answer, how do you push without being pushy?
You can season it to taste, of course, but here is the formula I have been following for well over a decade to good effect so far:
1. Start early. Make it so that by the time your kid is ten he will have no memory of what it was like not having a classical education of some sort at home, on top of his regular schooling. When habits form before memory does, they will be very hard to break.
2. Insist that the child be classically trained in a musical instrument from age five until the day they go off to college. But not the guitar and not the drums. Of course, if they want to pick up either of these, that’s fine. But given their ubiquity in pop music, the guitar or drums should never supplant the piano, violin, clarinet, or any other proper orchestral instrument. Exceptions should be made, of course, for the classical guitar or if one’s little genius looks like he might become the next Neil Peart.
Aside from filling their heads with elegant music and training their minds to ape the creative function of great musical minds, playing classical music will also give white kids a sense of racial pride like almost nothing else. Parents shouldn’t beat a dead horse over this last point, of course. But they shouldn’t let their kids forget it either.
3. Insist the child not only read poetry, but memorize it. By the time they enter college verses from at least a couple dozen classic poems should be figure skating in their minds. There are plenty of introductory poetry books out there that can get kids started quite painlessly. Richard Wilbur’s Some Opposites is a good example of quality, kid-friendly poetry. The best, in my opinion, is the absolutely wonderful “The People Upstairs” by Ogden Nash. This little poem is so remarkable I feel the need to reproduce it here. There are very few kids who won’t appreciate the clever twist at the end.
“The People Upstairs” by Ogden Nash
The people upstairs all practice ballet.
Their living room is a bowling alley.
Their bedroom is full of conducted tours.
Their radio is louder than yours.
They celebrate weekends all the week.
When they take a shower, your ceilings leak.
They try to get their parties to mix
By supplying their guests with pogo sticks.
And when their fun at lasts abates
They go to the bathroom on roller skates.
I might love the people upstairs wondrous
If instead of above us, they just lived under us.
4. Play classical music as often as possible. Like any art form, some of it is more conducive to child-rearing than others. In general, stick to the shorter, lighter, catchier stuff and leave the heavy, sublime material for later. I’m sure nothing can turn some poor kid off to classical music more than subjecting him to hours of Wagner or Bruckner. Instead, here is a list of pithy pieces that young kids can get into with only a reasonable amount of effort. Please add more in the comments section if you know of any.
Bach – Minuet in G Major
Beethoven – Piece for Mandolin (without opus)
Bizet – Les Toreadors
Denza – Funiculi Funicula
Dvořák – Humoresque
Fucik – Entry of the Gladiators
Grieg – In the Hall of the Mountain King
Khachaturian – Sabre Dance
Mozart – A Little Night Music
Mozart – Piano Sonata #11 Rondo Alla Turca
Mozart – Piano Sonata #16 Allegro
Offenbach – Can-Can #3 and #4
Rossini – William Tell Overture Finale
Saint-Saëns – The Elephant
Schumann – The Merry Peasant
Suppe – Light Cavalry Overture
Tchaikovsky – Trepak from the Nutcracker
Tchaikovsky – Spanish Dance from Swan Lake
Tchaikovsky – Neapolitan Dance from Swan Lake
Vivaldi – Spring from the Four Seasons (Allegro)
A playlist of these and others can go a long way, especially in car rides.
In 2006 Disney released a feature-length Mickey, Donald, and Goofy spoof of The Three Musketeers. The movie itself is fine, but the soundtrack consists of nothing but classical pieces sung in verse by the characters. There is no better way to get kids to remember classical music than through funny lyrics. One song, called “Petey’s King of France” (a brilliant send-up of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”), you just have to experience. I challenge anyone to tell me that this rendition of this song would not make the perfect gateway drug for the world of classical music.
As a corollary to this, if classical music is not your thing, then anything that isn’t the corrosive pop music we hear these should do just as well for inoculation purposes. Vintage country or folk, PG-rated classic rock, bluegrass, polka, show tunes, religious music, pretty much anything that isn’t the degenerate, mass-marketed pop that is so popular these days. When kids get exposure to enough of this kind of thing, they will be more likely to have the taste to recognize today’s pop for what it is.
5. Never play rap and stay away from popular black music in general. By all means, listen to Kathleen Battle singing Fauré’s Requiem or Wynton Marsalis tearing up Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E Flat Major. Or even Ray Charles hitting all the right notes in his beautiful version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” That stuff is great. But black popular music tends to sink to the lowest common denominator discussed above. Little effort is required to follow along, so the mind does not develop as much as it would when trying understand and appreciate classical music. Even in some of its best incarnations, such as Dixieland jazz, popular black music tends to celebrate the release of wild passions which is not really conducive to civilized life. Compare Count Basie’s rendition of the standard “1 O’Clock Jump” to Lawrence Welk’s. The white version is much more restrained and civilized (“the squarest thing this side of Euclid,” as one critic put it), whereas the black version really jumps. It’s got that jungle rhythm, you know.
R&B and, later, rock and roll took this unrestrained quality and gave it a sexual edge. Rap and hip-hop have given it anger and violence. None of this is good, and none of this should be in our homes with our children listening.
There is another reason to keep black musical forms out of our homes. It’s not as nice, but it is just as valid. We, as white advocates, separatists, nationalists, what have you, envision a world in which we don’t have to be around these people. We recognize racial differences as well as the net negative impact blacks have on society despite their musical ability. We would frankly rather do without them. Instilling an appreciation of black musical forms into children at an early age works against this. To a child, it may also seem a tad hypocritical on the parent’s part.
Years ago, The Onion did a not-bad piece entitled “Affluent White Man Enjoys, Causes the Blues.” It’s not quite like that. But to an impressionable kid, it sure could seem that way.
Rob Kievsky was correct when he said that parents should push their children. Greg Johnson was also correct when he said that Mozart won’t somehow magically make a child smarter than his genetics would dictate. But putting the time and effort into learning how to appreciate classic and classical music forms certainly can make a kid develop his mind. So, kids who really enjoy Mozart at an early age may seem smarter than other kids because they are, in effect, farther along in reaching their potential. They will also have developed that all important sense of taste, thanks in no small part to their parents for pushing them along.
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