Susan Arendt wrote:
erdnasephile wrote:In my more cynical moments, I wonder if it is a bit futile to hope that an appreciation of magic history can be engendered in future generations--at least in American society.
I base this on the numerous studies that demonstrate the woeful knowledge of American history amongst the majority of study subjects, the seemingly willful ignorance of some reporting ("We've never been this divided in our nation's history!" -- Uh, "Civil War" anyone?), and the current strain of popular "presentism".
Then again, I remember being able to recall specific stats on the back of my baseball cards as a kid, so it seems natural to want to learn all one can about a thing (or person) we love.
Maybe the key to getting new magicians to learn magic history and provenance is to teach them how to really love magic
Following that line of thinking, how does one teach someone to "really love magic"? They either do or they don't, no? I mean, it helps to be exposed to good magic and also to have your interest supported by your friends and/or family, but assuming that's all in place, what else can be done?
I can only speak for myself. I learned to love magic by being fortunate enough to see a lot of really great magic when I was very young with the Mystics. However, the welcoming environment of that group also had a ton to do with it as well. I was always the youngest around, but the older kids never dissed me for it. They were honest, but not cruel. They always encouraged us to reach. I distinctly remember one dude trying to make fun of me for wanting to read "Expert Card Technique" and Randy Pryor just shut him down. That gave me the confidence to try, and pretty soon, I flew. That sort of thing was a large part of getting me hooked.
I also had great teachers (Thanks, Stan and Brad!) who passed on their love for good magic in the context of history to me. In their wisdom, one of the first books they taught from was Paul Curry's terrific "Magician's Magic." Mr. Curry not only weaves an exciting, accessible tales of some of the most famous moments of magic history, but he also includes really good tricks
that a beginner can do (including one that I'll bet would fool a whole lot of magicians) that goes along with the theme of the various chapters. Sure, the history presented isn't always the most detailed, and there are inaccuracies (e.g., pg 84), BUT it sure helped the magic bug to bite me hard.
In short, I suspect that if we expose beginners to great magic (and teach them why it's great and how to recognize what's not great) in a supportive environment, hopefully that will help spark a respect and love for magic (Michael Close has a great story about what he does when someone is really interested in magic in The Paradigm Shift
). That noition, of course, puts the onus on us to be outstanding ambassadors for magic whenever we perform (and even when we aren't--if you're a creeper and people somehow find out you do magic, you just help reinforce that dreadful stereotype. It also means that the stereotypical boorish behavior that some display at conventions around young people has got to stop. What sort of parent would want their kid hanging around that kind of mess?).
Second, making magic history relevant once that spark is ignited (the way Curry does) may also be of value. Again, by learning the modern tricks that use the ancient principles, the lessons of history are caught, with a minimum of preaching. (Maybe you could do an article around this sort of theme on GeniiOnline. )
I'm certainly no expert on this stuff, and I'm just rambling off the top of my head. I certainly don't think there's a one size fits all answer, but maybe these snippets might inspire better ideas.