Monday, June 6, 2016

Beneath the Wheel, by Hermann Hesse. Bantam Books, 1970 originally published 1906

Young Hans Giebenrath is a gifted child. When the state tests show him to have the second highest score in the country, he earns entrance to a monastery school and becomes the pride of his small farm town. It also earns him a short vacation, which he plans to spend fishing and walking in the beautiful forests. But each day finds his time being taken up by different tutors who wish him to study so he’ll be ahead of the other students when classes begin. Soon all the hours of his day are used up and his leisure is gone.

At the highly regimented school, he has trouble fitting in. He is no longer special like he was in his village. He lacks social skills, so when one of the students, a flamboyant poet, befriends him, he finds himself giddily obsessed and his studies suffer. Eventually he has a breakdown and falls so far behind he is sent home. This is a permanent banishment; no student sent home ever comes back. Suddenly, for the first time, he is at loose ends; there are no lessons to learn, books to read, or tests to prepare for. For the first time, he actually has choices. Can Hans learn to live happily without a highly structured life?

While this book was written in 1906, I see the same thing still happening to gifted kids today (and regular kids whose parents want them to be gifted); they are given so many classes and structured activities that they have no time for play, socialization, or imagination. While most survive it okay, I can’t believe it’s the best way to raise a child.

1 comment:

  1. I read some Hesse years ago and found it rather difficult going. I agree that most kids today have lives that are too structured and don't allow much time for creative play. Don't know why my comments have doubled up the last few times. Hope you only get one this time.