Branford Marsalis’ Take on Students Today

by Joey deVilla on December 30, 2008

Here’s a great clip from the documentary Before the Music Dies in which saxophonist Branford Marsalis tells us what he really thinks about students today:

Here’s my transcript of the video:

What I’ve learned from my students is that students today are completely full of shit.

That is what I’ve learned from my students. Much like the generation before them, the only thing they are really interested in is you telling them how right they are and how good they are.

That is the same mentality that basically forces Harvard to give out B’s to people that don’t deserve them out of the fear that they’ll go to other school that will give them B’s, and those schools will make the money.

We live in a country that seems to be in this massive state of delusion, where the idea of what you are is more important than you actually being that. And it actually works just as long as everybody’s winking at the same time. If one person stops winking, you just beat the crap out of that person, and they either starting winking or go somewhere else.

My students – all they want to hear how good they are and how talented they are. Most of them aren’t really willing to work to the degree to live up to that.

Don’t dismiss this as just a statement about jazz or even about music. I see the attitude of Marsalis’ students everywhere.

The trailer for Before the Music Dies is really intriguing. I’m going to have to watch it:

[Thanks to Pete Forde’s entry in Rethink for the video.]

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tomas December 30, 2008 at 1:25 pm

The entire documentary is available via google video, here.

sloot December 30, 2008 at 4:21 pm

“We live in a country that seems to be in this massive state of delusion, where the idea of what you are is more important than you actually being that. And it actually works just as long as everybody’s winking at the same time.”

That sounds like a summary of what caused the current economic whateverwecallitthisweek.

Ibod Catooga January 1, 2009 at 5:41 am

I crashed his party one time and he was like, “Oh, oh, why are you wearing that werewolf mask?!??”

And I was like, “That ain’t no werewolf mask!”

CHOMP!

Amy January 2, 2009 at 10:29 am

In my experience, what he says is true — and extremely well-said, my god. But it stems from a profound sense of insecurity rather than a huge ego. Genuinely huge egos just don’t care.

But lots of research has shown that the more you praise a kid directly, e.g. “You’re great” or “You’re so smart, you can do anything”, the fewer risks they are willing to take. Their performance goes down, too, even on an identical challenge, compared to the scores they received before the praise.

I imagine by the time they’re old enough to be this guy’s students, they have heard so much of this kind of baseless self-esteem “improving” crap that they’re riddled with insecurity like swiss cheese with holes. Poor bastards. Not selfish, opportunistic bastards.

If you’re interested in the topic, I highly recommend Alfie Kohn’s book “Punished by Rewards.”

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