Say it like I’m five

We all think of how Western Classical music and children do not mix too well. Leonard Bernstein, one of the greatest conductors in the world, didn’t agree.

Children often get angsty and have little patience for the intricate and elaborate art form of  symphonic Western Classical music, with its long winding pieces and hundreds of instruments. But Bernstein does a fantastic job of breaking this art form down and explaining it to children in his Young People’s Concert series. And it isn’t just for young people. I have listened to his lectures and have found them more instructive, captivating and illuminating than any musical performance, instructional or otherwise, that I have yet encountered.

True masters of their field can often convey its essence to children. The clarity they have allows them to step from the intricacies of their field and summarize it in a form that anybody else could understand. Just listen to how Richard Feynman explains the profundity in a common phenomenon that we seldom think so deeply about.

Maria Popova reads and reviews substantial works of arts on her famous site Brain Pickings. Amidst philosophers like Thoreau, psychologists like Schopenhauer and authors like Virginia Wood, Popova also throws in reviews of children’s books.

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth. They accept, almost without question, anything you present them with, as long as it is presented honestly, fearlessly, and clearly.” – E.B. White

A litmus test of your understanding of a subject is your skill to engage a five year old in conversation about it.

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