I’m going to dedicate this article to my mother who died on December 12th of this year.
Tonight I saw the movie Whiplash – again.
Whiplash sends the wrong message to American youth.
It sends the wrong message to all of us.
The instructor in the movie, Terence Fletcher, tries to teach his young student, Andrew Neiman, that in order to produce greatness, people have to be roughed up.
According to Terence Fletcher, there would be no Charlie Parker if Jo Jones had not thrown a cymbal at his head.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Beating people up, humiliating them, even with the intent of making them better, doesn’t make them better.
It makes them worse.
It destroys their confidence.
Unfortunately, this methodology of teaching is common in our training programs across all areas of endeavor.
I experienced this when I was in my training program in the early 1980s.
It cost me ten years of my life.
It took me ten years of working on the road in order to regain my confidence.
Slowly I did though – no thanks to the professors who beat the living daylights out of me mentally.
Those professors were supposed to make me better, not worse.
Likewise in the movie Whiplash, a teacher‘s job is to make his students better, not worse.
Now, you would think that the author of this movie would have tried to express this message more forcefully instead of raising it and them dismissing it.
The story of Sean Casey is briefly alluded to in the movie. Sean Casey was a student of Terrence Fletcher‘s.
Sean Casey killed himself, and his parents attributed his depression to the beating that Terence Fletcher inflicted upon him while Sean was a music student under the tutelage of Terence Fletcher.
This should have been the key point in the movie, but I suppose that message was too much of a downer for Hollywood.
Besides, macho messages sell better to the American public.
That’s too bad.
At the end of the movie we see the young student, Andrew Neiman, elevate himself to superstar status with a drum solo thus vindicating Terence Fletcher‘s message.
By even participating in an event led by Terence Fletcher, Andrew Neiman buries the pain and sacrifice of Sean Casey.
In the eyes of the creators of this movie, Sean Casey was weak, a failure in life who didn’t have the right stuff, a person who couldn’t step up to the plate.
I’m sure there are people who do elevate their performance in response to a vicious mental beating.
Unfortunately those people are in the minority.
Far too many people are made worse by brutal tyrants like Terence Fletcher.
There’s no excuse for it.
Human beings are fragile at any age.
I have not seen any evidence in my life or in my career to believe that people are made better by being humiliated.
I believe that people who are humiliated rise up in spite of, not because of, that humiliation.
But only after years of pain.
There is no correlate to Whiplash in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
I want to dedicate this message to my mother, Frances Davis, because my mother taught kindness.
My mother understood that you’ll get further in life with a lump of sugar than a whip.
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