I am addressing this for the sake of our children, for the sake of you adults, as well as society in general. In my previous article, I wrote about the tragic beliefs that prevent so many from living fulfilled lives. In fact, they prevent people from fulfilling some basic human needs.
As a parent, educator and coach, having personally coached hundreds of people (thousands probably) with belief systems that stem from subconscious traumas often formed in childhood, this deeply concerns me. When it still happens in our school systems through sheer ignorance, I find it even more disturbing.
To bring home this point, I will here use a real exchange with a human being – a woman named Gail. Ultimately, it's not about her, but about the common beliefs and tendencies she expresses.
She had publicly posted a comment directly in regards to what I do and offer. This time, instead of just ignoring it, I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to understand what drives someone to believe this, and why someone wants to post it publicly. It turned into a fascinating and frightening exploration of human ignorance and the subtle abuse of children.
Gail first wrote:
“You have to be born with a voice, just like a ball player has to be born with a pitching arm.”
Now, these nonsense comments are not new. In this case, anyone would understand that it is somewhat helpful to have a voice if you want to sing, and an arm if you want to pitch baseball. But, she obviously means more than that. So I decided to post this response:
“The good news is that most people are born with a voice, just as most people are born with an arm. Then the question is what we want to learn to do with what we were born with.“
She then responds:
“Of course everyone is born with a voice. I was talking about a GREAT voice. Or a great pitching arm. You have to be born with those talents. Everyone can't sing. That's a scam, saying that. Watching the video cannot turn a monotone into Whitney Houston. Don't be ridiculous. One has to have the pipes, has to be born with the voice."
Aha, so there we have it. She meant, and quite adamantly so, that one has to be born with a GREAT voice. But in order to do what exactly? Is she the one who is able to pinpoint who exactly it is of all newborns who has the “GREAT voice”? Perhaps she would like to be the one who labels those who don’t. So she concludes everyone can’t sing? Okay. So what? Not everyone can speak Swedish either. I have yet to hear an infant sing Ave Maria.
But like we discussed in the previous article, I don't need to beat Roger Federer to enjoy playing tennis, so I wrote:
"The other good news is that you don't have to be Whitney Houston to enjoy singing, nor do you have to be the world's best pitcher to play baseball. Of course everyone can improve their singing, just like everyone can improve throwing a ball. The question is how to improve effectively. This training is for those who love to sing, and would love to engage in ways to effectively develop this wonderful form of expression."
“That's true, but there are some monotones who will never sing. It is a scam to promise people they can learn to sing. That's false.”
So what on earth is a “monotone”? Who is Gail, and who is the child or adult that she wants to label “a monotone”?
I should add that I have never met someone who has the ability to utter a sound at only one frequency. Have you? Imagine every sound you make is exactly 440Hz. Wow, that would be pretty incredible. Our friend Gail does apparently not really know about music, frequencies or what the word “monotone” means. Nor does she evidently have any idea of what singing and singing training is, or what I do. Nor does she likely know what drove her internally to post this in the first place.
She obviously feels a need to express herself. She wants to feel important. She wants to be heard. We can all understand that. These are basic human needs. This is also why singing is one of the most empowering activities we can engage in, why every culture sings, and every infant "sings" - until they are shut down by people like Gail who tell the untrained, or the ones who don't measure up to Whitney Houston, to be quiet and call them "monotone".
You may have seen some of the many case stories, such as the video with James who was shut down all his life from a belief that came from a choir director once telling him that he would never be able to sing. But now, he is finally finding so much joy singing in the choir.
You might have heard the enlightening wisdom from Art Therapist Laura about the traumas of being silenced as a kid, and the important therapeutic benefits of releasing your voice – however good or bad the Gails of the world think you are
And Gail goes on:
“There are absolutely people who can never carry a tune. Ask any nursery school music teacher. We all have different skills in life. Not everyone can sing. You're making false promises, if you promise that.
Nursery school teacher? Now, that’s interesting. Is she herself a teacher? At a nursery school? And she believes that from having observed a child who doesn’t sing in tune, she now has the right to judge the child’s future abilities?
Has she really no understanding of the vast difference between an observed ability/skill in the moment, versus what a person is potentially capably of in the future.
Does this labeling only apply to singing and throwing a ball, or all other skills and abilities also?
So I wrote, admittedly quite harshly:
"Imagine the child entering Gail's nursery school who doesn't sing in tune and is told: "You will NEVER learn to sing". Imagine the child who misses the first attempt at shooting a basketball and is therefore told: "You will NEVER play basketball". Imagine the child who cannot write and is told: "You will NEVER learn to write". It is tragic that children every day are being abused like that."
Now, I call it abuse and that's a strong word. Many times what happens is not meant as abuse. It comes from loving people who just don’t know better.
When my son was in preschool we noticed a pattern that his teacher was often jokingly telling him “You never talk to me”. Several years later she would still repeat the same thing. And she was right. Why on earth would he want to talk to her after having received that label? Does she really believe putting a negative label on a child will make the child change? Of course not. Finally when he got another teacher, he would open up and communicate in a completely different way.
Does our friend Gail seriously think that the kid who feels she doesn’t sing well, is the kid who is going to go home and practice like crazy to overcome this difficulty – especially if she has come to believe there is something wrong with her, that she was never born with “the voice”? Especially since she has been told by her trusted teacher that she cannot possibly learn, and that anyone who tells you so is a fraud and a scam.
Is this child suddenly going to feel comfortable to sing out beautifully? Of course not. The fears and discomfort of “not being good enough” alone is enough to restrict the vibration, which makes singing on key extremely difficult.
Maybe the kid hasn’t been exposed to music, or she has never had the opportunity to experiment and explore her voice without being judged. Maybe he has been told to be quiet. Maybe the key the teacher picked doesn’t fit comfortably. Maybe there is a hearing problem. There are a numerous factors that can all be fixed. And there are always ways for someone to become better at a skill through effective strategies.
Yet, the ignorant teacher, who does no research and has evidently no interest in learning herself, prefers to simply label the child (and adult) as someone who is “not born with a voice”.
It’s also interesting that Gail refers to baseball – especially in the light of the fact that I have written extensively about sports, including my son’s baseball endeavors and his skills. I’ve written about when my son showed up on the baseball field at the age of 5 and astounded everyone with his “natural talent”. The reason I wrote that was exactly to help explain the enormous amount of training he had already been engaged in to develop the coordination and awareness of his body, eye sight, mental attitude to learning and performing, the mechanics of throwing, etc., that the uninformed unfortunately just want to call “natural”.
Now we could easily argue that I am abusing Gail, here. She will be invited to read this and I’m sure it won’t be pleasant. We can all understand and be compassionate since it is very possible that Gail is not aware of some traumas of her own that may have caused her to believe this. I frankly hope this will help her awaken.
As adults we do have the potential to reflect and make choices. We can choose to become even more hostile and go on the attack or we can choose to reflect and learn from hurtful events and our mistakes. Perhaps Gail would like to reflect on why it is that she likely has not developed her singing voice herself, or why she likely isn’t very good at throwing a ball.
Perhaps she would like to reflect on the fact that those who have learned how to acquire skills are also the ones who often willingly want to help others. Perhaps she wants to do some more research and think before calling the next educator and trainer a scam due to her own fears.
Now, she did write one final response to my last comment to defend herself. She wrote:
“I have never discouraged a child in my life. You do not know me. I will never tell an innocent child she can't do something. But holding out a false hope to an adult is a scam. Tell me you don't make money from this? I have never put down a kid in my life. I have great works of art all over my fridge from grammar school art projects. They are cute and beautiful. What were you thinking accusing me of putting down kids. You don't know that I worked, advocated for kids all my born days. I'm 72.”
So there we have it. She has never discouraged anyone. Except for the fact that she has publicly tried to discourage everyone who wasn’t “born with a GREAT voice”.
She will never tell an innocent child she can’t do something. The question is if that only applies to those who are “born with the talent”, or it would otherwise give them “false hope”. (Or maybe that was just for the adults.)
We have never doubted she has great artwork by kids on her fridge. The question is what happens to the art that by her is deemed not great.
It is not surprising that, as it turns out, she loves children and wants to protect them. Gail is probably a wonderful person in many ways who has done a lot of good in the world.
But this article is intended to encourage thought. I hope it encourages you, who may have come to believe in what you can or cannot do, to realize that it is perfectly fine to engage in activities, improving them, and enjoying them, without having to be judged as “great”.
I hope it encourages everybody to watch out for the tendency to label children, as well as label adults. They way you lead your life today is likely due to beliefs you have formed at an early age. Perhaps you have been hurt and ridiculed. Perhaps you have been labeled. And we should also understand that “you are a natural” is also a label that can cause just as much problems as “you are a monotone” with the heightened expectations that come with it.
To close, we should understand that hopes, goals, dreams and aspirations are very frightening for some. Many adults want to protect children by shutting down goals and aspirations out of fear of disappointment. They don’t realize that it is not the accomplishment of the dream and goal itself that is the reward, but it’s the journey that gives life a purpose. Yes, we understand that there are many out there who are afraid, and therefore don’t want to encourage “false hopes”.
Personally, I don’t provide hope. I provide training.
P.S. Read the hundreds of comments, and feel free to comment yourself below.
If you haven’t read the previous article, you might want to do so first. (By the way, thanks to all of you who made some wonderful insightful comments!)
She had posted publicly a comment directly in regards to what I do and offer. This time instead of just ignoring it, I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to understand what drives someone to believe this, and why someone wants to post it publicly. It turned into a fascinating and frightening exploration of human ignorance and the subtle abuse of children.