Emily was coming up five and excited about our annual holiday in St Ives, Cornwall. St Ives had long become a habit and already Emily knew about the little shop in St Andrews Street where there were gems for sale. And soon after arrival that’s where we were looking for another gem or two to add to Emily’s prized collection.

Gem stones, things of great beauty, and for Emily of great aesthetic significance at this moment in her life.

In another place 8X4 are concluding their science topic on human relationships. They ask their teacher, a favourite of theirs, what is the next topic?


‘Rocks … what has that got to do with anything?’, they say.

Mr. X will be taking you and he can make anything interesting.

In another place I observe a beginning teacher teaching year 8 and the subject is ‘rocks’.

The point of the lesson is to categorise rocks into three kinds…you know…Igneous ……

The lesson is dry, factual, cold, business-like…well…just rocks in three columns really.

I am sitting at the back of the class next to a quiet, studious girl and I venture to ask her what she knows about rocks.

Well, since primary school days she has been reading the magazine Gems of the Earth and in her garden there are some interesting rocks which she tells me about.

Back to copying down the three columns and learning those categories.

I am left wondering about where the subjective life of the child fits into a formal education that is school and that is concerned to impress upon the child an objective world.

Is the subjective life to be silenced?

Must feelings, meanings, thoughts, insights, curiosities be privatised?

2 thoughts on “Rocks

  1. Chris Philpott

    Hi John,
    As a very very amateur geologist I was pleased to see your latest excursion. Two disjointed thoughts:

    1. In light of the special case that is often made for music, I was reminded that in the deep structures of meaning across disciplines (consilience), there may be more similarities than we care to think.
    2. I am more tolerant of the ‘dry, factual, cold’ approach in geology (where I am off piste) than I am in music education.

    Do you have diagnosis for the second condition?

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