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Some thoughts on Education

Fleischmann and Department Heads UCCFleischmann saw himself as an educator in his university post. In this matter, too, he disagreed with Seán O'Faolain. In a radio broadcast on Cork of 1948, O'Faolain had called University College Cork a fourth-rate institution – Fleischmann wrote to him:

Objectively speaking the reference flattered us – if the greatest of the continental universities be taken as first-rate, we would probably come in the tenth or eleventh category, ahead only of some of the American and colonial colleges. But to refer to a body as fourth-rate implies either that it should be first-rate, and isn't, or that it thinks it is first-rate, and isn't. In both cases the implication is unjust. A small college set in a relatively poor and uneducated agricultural community, lacking in grants and endowments, with a spoiled and twisted tradition (from godless ascendancy college via hyper-nationalism to hyper-religiosity), we cannot hope to be more than a little better than what we are, nor are any of us under any delusions as to the deficiencies of our set up. Supposing you were referred to in a broadcast as a fourth-rate novelist, would you not feel that the reference was somewhat gratuitous? And if Balzac or Chekhov be admitted as first-rate, the classification might not be unduly harsh.

O’Faolain retorted that UCC was not fourth-rate, but useless, indeed "a fraud". He listed professors who were boring, ignorant, and unsuitable – and he deplored most of all that some of them regarded themselves as teachers:
Mary Ryan – a monster as a professor: a sweet old lady no doubt. Do you know what she used to do? – She used to teach us. Sacred Heart – teaching in a University!!!! You know, grammar and syntax and this and that and Oh! And Ah! and groans. And everybody said she was marvellous: because she did teach the little ducks, spoonfed them, breastfed them, predigested their pap for them. Aloys. A University is a University, as Gertrude Stein might say. Anything else is O.

Fleischmann with Choir O’Faolain regarded scholarship, personality and a cultured ambience as essential requirements for a university teacher. The accounts given by those of Fleischmann's former students who have contributed to this book suggest that they regard him as having been a good professor in these terms. However, they all highlight that he taught them in the sense deplored by O’Faolain, that they were instructed and given a firm grounding in the craft of music.
The B. Mus. course was designed to allow the average student capable of disciplined application to attain the degree. The exceptionally gifted determined neither pace nor content of the course and they were expected to acquire solid foundations whatever their hopes and aims. O’Faolain's viewpoint is that of the individualistic creative artist struggling against the restrictions imposed by mediocrity and ignorance. Fleischmann's agenda was to seek to create structures through good music-teaching nationwide which would foster talent broadly, thus creating conditions favourable to the exceptionally gifted. It was an uphill struggle.

The remarkable flowering of the arts in Cork today is the result of a long haul by many people. The contributors to this book seem to agree that, in the field of music, the prime mover from the 1930s to the 1980s was Aloys Fleischmann. But individuals can only have such an impact if they have the gift of bringing out the talents and energies of hundreds of others whom they inspire and win over for their cause. Such individuals must be able to perform a sort of loaves and fishes miracle, liberating hidden resources in others, which are then shared and made productive. Some of the character traits which can generate such charisma have been portrayed in this book with affection and respect by Fleischmann's former students, colleagues and friends. Among the characteristics singled out are his deep love of music and his ability to impart that to others; his personal example of unflagging service to the cause; his courtesy and modesty in dealing with people of all sorts and stations; and his humour.

Fleischmann with Orchestra