All Children by Nature Have a Desire to Learn

“All men by nature have a desire to know.” -Aristotle, p. 3 of Man in the Universe in the 1943 Classics Club edition

By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

We would now say: “all men and women.” That is, if the fashionable among us will allow Aristotle a voice at all.

Once upon a time, I was sitting in the car, reading and waiting for the spouse-person who was yakking with some other women after Mass. Suddenly, I noticed a little boy standing next to me at the window. He said, “You look like Father Brown.”

Well, any little boy who reads G. K. Chesterton has certainly been raised right, and I was pleased to meet him.

The little boy is now taller than I am, but, for me, he will always be that kid who was a strong reader even when he was only about car-window high.

His name is not Jacques, nor is his little sister’s name Chantel—but given the unhappy temper of our time, I will not reveal their true names, the town in which they live, nor the school they attend. Things have just gotten too weird.

Because they live far, far away, I see Jacques and Chantel only a few times each year when they come to visit their grandparents. But it is always fun to hear what books they are reading, what new music they have learned, and how their summer jobs are going.

This is because their parents have given them love not only in food, clothing, and shelter, but also in making their home a library, a music studio, an art museum, and a science laboratory. The farm animals are outside.

A few months ago, their mom posted from their living room a video clip of Chantel singing a solo and Jacques accompanying her on a viol or viola. As the song says: if you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band. [Alabama – If You’re Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band) Lyrics |]

Well, okay, they’re rich folks who can afford to send their kids to fancy-schmancy schools, right?

Nope. Two working parents and an ordinary public school in Texas.

Jacques and Chantel, you see, were never permitted to feel sorry for themselves and submit to the Sauron’s eye that is the InterGossip. They have always had to work, study, and try to get along with their fellow humans.

Recently, their mom sent a video of Jacques (but not Chantel, who was in a different program) in a Christmas presentation by their high school’s madrigal club. All the young folks were in beautiful costumes along the medieval-renaissance continuum (I know nothing about fashion), except for one who seemed to be a pirate—but, hey, good fun! The musical presentations of old—as in olde—Christmas hymns and Christmas carols, along with some contemporary, just-plain-fun songs were outstanding: professional in voices, professional in musical talent, and professional in stagecraft, and obviously professional through months of disciplined rehearsals. It can only have been difficult.

I don’t know who the music teacher is, but she does a fantastic job in leading her students.

On this night, the kids got to have some fun, and they certainly did—such energy!

We’ve all been to school musical presentations and, often, suffered through them. We smile through the sixth-grade band’s pieces when what we really want to do is cover our ears. We applaud the children not because the strange noises they’ve made are objectively good, but because the children gave it a go at all and we want to encourage them.

Okay, sometimes we want to encourage the brass to practice in the next county— but, hey, childhood.

However, the Christmas-themed program staged by Jacques and his fellow high school musicians was objectively good. The applause was not aw-ain’t-they-cute applause, but real, wow-they-are-great applause.  With discipline, practice, and the handing off of civilization from one generation to the next, you get something good.

All men and women by nature have a desire to know; all children by nature have a desire to know. The question for us is this: what do we give our children to know?

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