Sunday, January 20, 2013

Week 2: How should people be taught music?

       In our second week of history & philosophy of education, we covered several areas of metacognition, and touched on different elements of the who, what, where, when and why of music education. We split into groups to define the Core Philosophical Points of View (Functional, Aesthetic, Praxial, Sociological, and Cognitive). More small group work was done in relating the previous readings of Plato and Aristotle to the Housewright Declaration. My favorite quote from the declaration is the opening line that states; "Whenever and wherever humans have existed music has existed also". My small group had the topic of "when?" in relation to the early European Philosophers as well as the Housewright Declaration. The consensus was that all people should have a sound, balanced music education all the way through their academic career, to establish the basis for a lifetime of learning, hearing, and appreciating music.

      A large part of this week's discussion revolved around technology in the classroom; the biggest argument being for/against the usage of laptops in our own History & Philosophy class. This debate split the room roughly 2:1 in opposition. One student brought up the convenience of being able to type up notes and then immediately/easily transfer everything to their blog. Some students complained that they write much slower than they type, and it would be more efficient to type things up on their laptops. In general, I believe the whole debate was a waste of class time, and showed the immaturity of many of the undergraduate students. Clearly for some it was just a ploy to be able to use Facebook and email during class. Speaking as a student on the other side of the laptop screens, it is tragically apparent how short our generation's attention span is, and how much time students waste in class not paying attention. These students have been babied throughout their undergraduate career, and I honestly feel bad for them when they try to get a job in education and the reality check that will undoubtedly hit them.
    My reason for exasperation over the laptop usage was simply because it was set out in the classroom rules from Day 1 by the teacher. As future educators (possibly), these kids need to see that a teacher should not have to bend the rules to appease the needs of the students.
     We also discussed how humans have gotten along up until this point without needing to type everything or be connected to the internet at all times. Someone brought up the fact the many schools no longer require kids to learn cursive! This led to a much more relative discussion on what should be taught in schools and how it relates to music education.

    All of these discussions (vaguely) concerned how musical education should be taught. The Housewright Declaration summed it up, saying that the concepts must be preserved through time, while being kept relevant to new technology. I believe it is our duty as teachers to present material in the most up-to-date media format as is necessary and efficient. However, if students can get the same work done by using an old-fashioned pencil and paper, then by all means they should. Technology is an extremely useful tool, but it should never be a crutch. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Week 1: Who should be musically educated?

    Our first assignment was to read excerpts from the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. They offered differing views on whether music and the arts should be required along with the core academic subjects as a necessity in education. It was a very interesting reading, and I find myself agreeing with Plato's (or Socrates/Glacon's) musings.

Plato's Thoughts:
    Expressed as a discussion between Socrates and Glaucon, Plato emphasizes the need for an equal amount of music (which encompassed other arts such as dancing) and gymnastics to create a balanced, educated person. By learning both, students become "more civilized, balanced, and better adjusted in themselves, for rhythm and harmonious adjustment are essential to the whole of human life".
     Plato says that a man should be equally balanced in both disciplines, for if he is solely based in the arts, he may become soft and gentle, whereas a man devoted to gymnastics and physical strength will be hardened and savage. Some more great quotes from the Republic;

"Surely the fairest is the most lovable. Of course. The true musician, then, would love by preference persons of this sort, but if there is disharmony he would not love this".

 "And so your youths, said I, employing that simple music which we said engendered sobriety will, it is clear, guard themselves against falling into the need of the justice of the courtroom".

"Then he who best blends gymnastics with music and applies them most suitably to the soul is the man whom we should most rightly pronounce to be the most perfect and harmonious musician."

Aristotle's Thoughts
    Much more specific in detail, Aristotle set to outline the 4 most important fields of a public education. He believed that the State should provide a balanced education and that the "training  in things which are of common interest should be the same for all". Reading and Writing, Gymnastics, Drawing, and Music (which again includes dance, etc.) were the customary branches of education. In my opinion, it seemed that he was throwing in Music because it was already a custom/tradition, not because he believed it was useful.
  Aristotle raised the idea that Music should be done for leisure, for the relaxing after work was completed. Reading/writing, gymnastics, and drawing were far more useful and profitable outlets, and were necessary to society. His justification was not because music gives health or strength, but because a balanced education  in the arts is liberal and noble.  Music contributes to the enjoyment of leisure and mental cultivation, and the best man knows how to "leisure well". Here's some more quotes from Politica, Book VIII;

  "Learning is no amusement, but is accompanied with pain."

   "Why should they learn themselves, and not... enjoy the pleasure and instruction which is derived from hearing others (for surely persons who have made music the business and profession of their lives will be better performers than those who practice only long enough to learn)?"

  "The vulgarity of the spectator tends to lower the character of the music and therefore the performers."

 Class Discussion

Does Teaching imply Learning? To answer this question, we broke into groups to develop a working definition of Teaching. Here are some of those definitions:
  - Teaching is transferring knowledge
  -Teach, don't preach
  -Teaching can be measurable and assessed
  -Teaching is sharing and channeling knowledge between 2 or more individuals
  -Teaching leads to change towards intended goals

What are characteristics of a good teacher?
 - Genuine caring about students and their improvement
 -transfers knowledge efficiently
 - active engagment and differentiation
 -enthusiastic about content
 -challenges students to critically and actively participate
 -creates organized, systematic, structured environment for learning
 -has the ability to adapt and think on their feet

Learning does not always occur when teaching. Good teachers are able to hold themselves accountable, and find out why they are not getting through to particular students. If students don't learn, the teacher must reevaluate their delivery strategy, determine the students learning style, and make every effort to help.