A friendly looking guy got up on the stage. He wasn’t a teacher. He didn’t seem like a parent either. This man held in his hands something that looked sort of like a guitar. He took it up and put it against his chin. Then he took a long stick and put it against the strings. It sounded nothing like a guitar, but still it got the kids attention and they were all quiet. After playing for a few minutes, the guy stopped. He stood up and walked to the edge of the stage and said: “boys and girls, I am Mr. Mathews and this is a violin; how many of you have seen and heard a violin before?” A few hands shot up among the older group. The Mr. Mathews asked “and how many of you think you could play the violin if I asked you to come up to the stage right now?” Many hands shot up, accompanied with screams “Me! Me! I can do it”. Most of them were in the group of children under 6. Children were called up to the stage in groups and given violins to experiment with. The ensuing notes could only be called “noise” of the worst kind!
The research report published after the experiment was completed noted that children under six were more open to learning and confident in their own ability. Further more, children under six were not at all thwarted by their lack of talent in trying out the instrument and just having fun, while children over age six were far more conscious of their performance and the presence of an audience, and were treating the experience as a test rather than an opportunity to have fun.
I found this experiment interesting. It made me think how even by age six the opinion of others becomes an important ingredient in the way we see the world, and that the younger we are the more apt we are to having fun and saying yes to things. Younger children tend to believe that “they can” and have far less attachment to the outcome – they are not afraid of making mistakes because someone else is watching. To me, that child like knowing that “I can do it” is the self-worth that we all have as children. In our journey through life, we forget it, until one day we wake up and realize that all the difficulties we have encountered in life are because we forgot that we truly can have, be or do anything we want.