Wrongheaded? No less an authority than Turkmenistan Grandmaster Babakuli Annakov told me that all the pupils at the Soviet Sports Academy, where he learned to play, weren't allowed to study an opening until after they had spent two years going over classic games.
I'd never heard of that, and I find it interesting. And everything else in your post seems perfectly logical and right to me, but I still can't entirely agree with it...
When I originally responded to this thread, I didn't checked the rating of the person who wanted to learn an opening, simply because it strikes me as the type of question that someone pretty new to chess would ask. Now I absolutely agree that tactical training is certainly better for a weaker player to improve than 'learning an opening', but this person is here (like all of us!) to PLAY chess, so they're going to have to play an opening in every game, and I found their question quite valid (think of how many beginnings on chess sites open with things like 1.e4 2.Bd3 or 1.e4 2.f3 ).
It seems to me that they are going to have to 'invent' a reply to 1.e4 or 1.d4 in virtually every game they play here (or elsewhere), so why not get an idea of what types of positions different openings give, in order to choose in an informed way how to answer 1.e4.
I think that perhaps we're talking about different things when we say 'learning an opening'. I wanted to help them find a way of opening that they felt comfortable with (in their original post they said "Is there a book recommended that runs through openings in general that gives you information on each one. Sort of like a stepping stone before you actually choose an opening."😉...personally I don't see how that type of book would do any harm (in my humble and uninformed opinion obviously
-it's hard for me to imagine that the students in the school that you mentioned didn't exchange ideas on openings and with the type of guidance they had, I would imagine that they became pretty knowledgeable pretty quickly (let's face it, studying classic games, if you do it with right people, can teach you a lot about opening theory).
Oh and by the way (and as I said above, I found your post really interesting, so please don't take this personally), I really hated your parallel to musical instruments! AND..., I hated it because unfortunately you're right! I live in France now, and that's exactly how kids learn to play an instrument...first you learn to read music, then you learn scales etc etc... But that's TERRIBLE.... for me it should be ...First you play around with lots of instruments until you feel like playing one, then you make a real loud racket that thrills your heart, then you play it a lot until you really like it and are sure that you want to learn it, THEN you start to study...
A somewhat philosophical question to finish off "When do you stop practicing/studying an instrument, and actually start PLAYING?" or to put it another way "When are you playing, and when are you studying?" (and is there really such a difference?).
And what about for chess......?