Dr. Suzuki Said Never Be Lazy

Wikipedia has its detractors, but I think it’s a great place to start an exploration. I’ve just read the article on Shinichi Suzuki, the namesake and creator of the Suzuki method of music instruction. He led an interesting life, and his philosophical disposition seems to match up with a lot of my own views on the universe. One of his most fundamental beliefs, as a pedagogue, is the notion that an outcome of learning to do something well is character development.

Teacher is a Suzuki practitioner – I’m just starting to learn about the method and its focus on aural experience and doing versus talking about doing. Praxis versus theory. I’m a newbie to his educational philosophy, but I’m struck by the similarities to the field I know best – Linguistics and language learning. In fact, Suzuki’s earliest inspiration for his methods arose from his observations about how children acquire their first languages.

Suzuki was raised, in part, by Albert Einstein. As a Japanese man married to a German woman, he was also a victim of the Second World War – he endured separation from his wife and the destruction of his family violin factory – its wartime repurposing as a pontoon factory made it a target. Suzuki lost his brother in that attack.

Despite the war’s horrors, the post-WWII intellectual milieu produced some of the most revolutionary ideas in humanity’s history. Behaviorism, driven by BF Skinner, became the dominant philosophical grounding of pedagogy, and it’s easy to see similarities in the methods developed by Suzuki. Take this little ditty, which Teacher imparted the other day as yet another Twinkle variation:

Dr. Suzuki said never be lazy,
But practice and practice;
It might drive you crazy

In Suzuki’s day, drilling and repetition became the dominant language learning paradigm as well – the audiolingual method of language learning. Though Behaviorism has lost a lot of its clout (due to Noam Chomsky, another Post WWII intellectual), most educators still find a place for repetitive drilling in certain contexts. I look forward to learning more about Suzuki – the man and the methods. If he was right, I’ll end up a better person for my trouble.

Thanks for reading.



  1. […] in Japanese culture with all kinds of learning that are worth spending a lifetime on – I just posted a couple of days ago about the Suzuki method containing some of the same ideas about serious […]

  2. […] the man and of the philosophy.  The subtitle intrigues me, “Son of His Environment.”  I wrote in another post about Suzuki’s methods and educational philosophy developing in the post-WWII intellectual milieu […]

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