Openness - A Music Education Philosophy - Dutton


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A paper submitted as partial requirements for Master of Music Education studies at Northwestern University, Chicago. Gerard Dutton (Class of 2013)

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Openness - A Music Education Philosophy - Dutton

  1. 1. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton  1   Openness: A Music Education Philosophy Gerard H. Dutton Northwestern University
  2. 2. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton  2  Estelle Jorgensen warns against creating an eclectic philosophy, which merely combinesideas that may or may not be internally consistent. The view that taking the good fromseveral places, in an attempt to make an amalgam which is wholly better than itscomponent parts, may be flawed. Jorgensen suggests that, “the reconciliation of disparatevisions of music education ought properly to be synthetic rather than simply eclectic. Increating a synthesis, one formulates something that is not only integrated but new” (1990,p.19).I propose a music education philosophy with openness as its central value. Music teacherswill learn the value of being open to: change, new ideas, the unfamiliar, challenge,criticism, success and failure. This philosophy will lead teachers to look outward forinspiration rather than looking inward to a closed world of established norms andexpectations.I believe this philosophy for music education will indeed provide something ‘new’ forteachers. By its design, synthesis of good practices modeled in other music educationphilosophies, will be organic. Teachers, who adopt this philosophy built around theconcept of openness, will naturally embrace diversity and inclusiveness. These ideals bringto mind the ‘synergistic proposal‘ of Bennett Reimer (2005), who in warning againstextreme views reminds us that “a synergistic spirit requires . . . an openness to and apositive attitude toward diversity, in which inclusiveness, or comprehensiveness, is seen asa guide and a goal. The nature of music, in this spirit, is likely to be multifaceted, music
  3. 3. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton  3  being identifiable as a special domain while manifesting its single nature in a great varietyof ways” (p. 295).Being open to new ideas implies being open to diversity, yet much of our music teachingpractices in schools lacks diversity. Reimer describes music education (in America) aswarranting admiration, yet of: very limited scope in its lack of comprehensiveness, its narrow view of sequential learning therefore, and its striking, perhaps dismaying, imbalance. We serve very few students, with very few options, with restricted kinds of music and a limited number of ways to develop musical creativities and intelligences. (2005, p. 297)Questions It is essential that a community of scholars in music education be broadened and fostered. Ongoing conversations . . . can foster such qualities of mind as incisiveness, the ability to separate oneself from ones argument or ones practice, take criticism gracefully as one also criticizes constructively, and develop a love of the questions themselves. (Jorgensen, 2001, p. 352)In this paper, the following questions will be answered. In doing so, the reasoning behindthe explicit inclusion of these themes, as central ideas for the philosophy, will be explainedand defended and their implications for teachers and students will become clear.
  4. 4. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton  4   • Why openness? • What is the relationship between choices and openness? • What are the modes of openness? • How can tone of language affect openness? • How can teachers open spaces for learning? • What does it mean to be open to change and new ways of doing? • What does it mean to be open to success and failure? • How is this a philosophy?Why openness?Unfortunately, many practices and entrenched ways of doing, in music education, do notembrace openness. Pondering this fact initially appears to create a conundrum for teachersfollowing a philosophy based on openness. How does one remain ‘open’ to negativepractices, which threaten openness? The answer is clear when it is understood that thisphilosophy encourages teachers to be flexible and discerning about the many choices theymake in their work with students. Being open to new ideas, to challenges, to criticism, andto change will lead thinking, ethical teachers towards practices which ‘open’ upopportunities for learning. The beauty of this philosophy is that openness does not implyfickleness. If a music teacher unquestioningly accepts the established norms or the forcefulvoices of the self-proclaimed experts without looking outwards for better ‘ways of doing’,then this behavior does not reflect openness.
  5. 5. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton  5  ChoicesAll teachers must make choices in their daily practices alongside colleagues andparticularly in their minute-to-minute dealings with their students. Stepping out in the timescale, there are choices too, which shape and color the teacher’s self-image and overallmode of operation in practice. The two types of choice, set on different time frames ofmacro and micro, are inter-related. In ‘stepping out’ from the minute-to-minute works,which so occupy our energies as teachers, we have the opportunity to consider and makechoices, which may establish the sorts of teachers we will become. This ‘macro’ timeframe is the starting point for our choice of philosophy. One’s philosophy for musiceducation, once clearly ‘chosen’ will guide all our other ‘micro’ choices, hopefullyinforming our minute-to-minute, day-to-day, week-to-week modes of operating. Thephilosophy we choose for ourselves as music teachers, will influence all that we do asteachers. Perhaps ‘choose’ is not the only way to look at this, since we do more thanchoose our philosophy. We actually create our philosophies through informed choices andthen, our subsequent choices will be filtered through our philosophy.One more important point to make about ‘choosing’ is that this often involvescompromise. As teachers, we can find ourselves paralyzed by difficult choices. Aphilosophy based on openness gives music teachers a filter to at least help them in theprocess of making their choices, even when choices involve challenge to beliefs or toestablished ways of doing. Being open to all points of view, being open to failure, beingopen to the unfamiliar, will lead to decisions made with wisdom. Openness will lead to, ifnothing else, the making of better-informed choices as reflective music teachers. Maxine
  6. 6. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton  6  Greene (1995) writes “Once granted the ability to reflect upon their practice within acomplex context, teachers can be expected to make their choices out of their own situationsand to open themselves to descriptions of the whole” (p. 12).MeaningsCareful analysis of the meaning(s) of the word ‘openness’ is an important element inpresenting this philosophy to teachers and readers. The word is at once, soft and powerful,in the way it influences our thinking. To be ‘open’ to something is not the same as to invitesomething, or to welcome something, or to be searching for something. For example, toinvite criticism, implies a will or desire, whereas to be ‘open’ to criticism implies a neutralreadiness if criticism is forthcoming. To be ‘open’ is to be prepared, to be alert, to bereceptive, and to be accepting if change arrives. It does not imply a wish or desire orneedfulness. Nor does it imply a reluctance or trepidation or fear. The attributes of being ina state of openness are positive states for ‘receiving’ something if it is forthcoming. Thecareful analysis of language is integral to making meanings from philosophical discourse.These meanings then can translate into actions, which may then translate into practice.Modes of opennessA philosophy based on openness calls on its proponents to look for and consider the goodand valuable ideas of others and to share and collaborate in a non-competitive andgenerous fashion. In being open, the music teacher will look beyond intemperate anddogmatic use of language, to extract the core goodness and usefulness of ideas, which maylater be synthesized into their own practice and beliefs. This mode of ‘openness’ may be
  7. 7. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton  7  thought of, in a metaphorical sense, as the feminine mode. In other words, in this mode,one is: receptive and willing to receive ideas; willing to consider and learn from others;open to consider and empathize with the beliefs and practices of others; and ready to ‘takein’ and benefit from ‘openness’. To follow the metaphor, in the masculine mode ofopenness, one is: generous and willing to ‘give’ ideas freely and openly; willing tocollaborate and share ideas and discoveries with others; prepared to offer one’s own beliefsand practices up for criticism and challenge by others; and ready to ‘give forth’ and begenerous through ‘openness’.To embrace the masculine mode of openness is: to offer one’s ideas for consideration; tomake ideas accessible through generous use of language; to avoid dogmatic behavior inrelationships; and to relinquish or at least, share power. This mode of being ‘open’ may atfirst seem paradoxical, since the nature of the masculine is often thought of as forceful anddominating. In the context of this philosophy, though, it may be argued that to force one’sideas onto others as if they are superior or the ‘only way’ to do, is incompatible with themodes of openness described above.Tone of languageIn the same way it is important to analyze the meanings assigned to words, so it isimportant to use language carefully and in a temperate manner, if a philosophy of opennessis to be adopted. If the philosophical discourse is to generate ongoing and useful meanings,whether in the masculine or feminine modes of openness, one’s use of language must beconsidered. Perhaps, rather, it is the tone of language, which has most influence on
  8. 8. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton  8  openness. The following are examples of thoughtful and highly respected educators, whowrite about the value of western art music in education. One writer fails to create a sense ofopenness, through the tone of language employed. The other writer succeeds.Example 1In his passionate advocacy for the place of western art music above popular music ineducation, Robert Walker (2007) writes: An educated mind must know the nature, intent, purpose, and content of the practices of musicians in the traditions of western thought. We, in many western countries are in danger of losing these important traditions under the weight of entertainment and its music of immediate gratification which acknowledges no cultural ties except those invented by popular culture. (p. 5)Later, Walker admonishes: The distinction between education and entertainment . . . has become blurred . . . to the point where some people, who I argue, should know better, are proclaiming that Beethoven and Britney Spears, or Lennon and Schubert, are somehow co-equal as composers and musicians and, therefore, both deserve to be studied in education. (p. 6)In criticizing the tone of the writing in the cited passages above, the merit or otherwise, ofthe ideas being delivered by the author, is not in question. By isolating ‘entertainment’from the ‘important traditions’ of western culture, Walker implies that all popular musicand popular culture is unimportant. He goes further, even than this. By using the specific
  9. 9. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton  9  examples of Beethoven/Britney Spears and Lennon/Schubert to make his point that thesemusicians are not ‘co-equal’, he immediately alienates any reader who has ever valued oreven taken pleasure from the music of the two contemporary artists named. In a rathersuperior tone, he declares that “some people . . . should know better”. Finally, andemphatically he closes the discourse by implying that neither Britney Spears nor JohnLennon “deserve[s] to be studied in education”.As demonstrated by this short analysis, tone of language is an important consideration inpromoting openness in a discourse. The points being made by Walker are certainly validand worthy of consideration, however, the tone of his delivery is closed and one-sided.Ironically, the writer’s argument may be more persuasive if he made an effort to engage hisreadership in a softer, more ‘open’ manner. Polarizing opinion by taking a dogmatic andarrogant tone may not be the best strategy for gaining maximum support for one’sargument. The tone of our language, as teachers, should be considered wisely too in ourday-to-day dealings with our students.The true value of a philosophy of openness can be illustrated by the response of the reader,who despite strongly disagreeing with the opinions of the writer is still open to findingvalue in the ideas. To read this text with openness to its full meanings is to be firmly in thefeminine mode described earlier.
  10. 10. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   10  Example 2Estelle Jorgensen (1998) writes: We see examples of musical genius in all sorts of music, especially in the great traditions of the world. Indeed, classical musics have been remarkably adept at incorporating elements of other musics within them, often in surprising and innovative ways. They have stretched the limits of human imagination, and because of what they demand of their exponents and listeners, they have historically been the province of a comparative few. Surely, music education ought to be as much about enabling as many as possible to have access to these classical musics, even changing their face if necessary, as it should be about widening the publics musical perspectives to include a host of other traditional and popular musics of the world. (p. 85-86)The written language in the chosen excerpt demonstrates a ‘tone’ of openness. It is mostoften describing what ‘is’ and uses positive imagery. It is about what ‘ought’ to be. Apartfrom the ‘tone’, we see into the writer’s own philosophy, which is also one of openness.Jorgensen speaks of “enabling as many as possible to have access” and “widening thepublic’s musical perspectives to include”. Here is a clear example of the masculine modeof openness. The ideas are given freely, yet without being forced upon the reader. Here is awriter who is looking outwards and opening the discourse up for further development ofthinking and imagination.
  11. 11. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   11  Opening spacesMaxine Greene (1965) paints a bleak picture of attending school in New York, at the turnof the twentieth century. At that time, there had been a massive immigration of more than amillion people. New York was a city of ghettos – Jewish, Italian, Greek, Slavic, Armenian,as well as Negros. From a multicultural standpoint, schooling at that time gave the childrenof immigrants and farmers nothing of relevance. The ‘school of life’ was where studentswould learn the real lessons needed for their future success – not in the public school (p.140-141).Many students in the early twenty-first century still feel that the learning they ‘do’ atschool is not relevant to them in their ‘real’ lives. Perhaps this will always be so in formaleducation settings, but caring music teachers armed with this awareness and equipped withopenness, have the opportunity to improve the experiences of their students through thechoices they make. Maxine Greene (1995) speaks of “opening spaces” especially for thosewho have been “silenced and disempowered” by literacy when they find themselves in newand unfamiliar contexts: As a set of techniques, literacy has often silenced persons and disempowered them. Our obligation today is to find ways of enabling the young to find their voices, to open their spaces, to reclaim their histories in all their variety and discontinuity. Attention has to be paid to those on the margins. (p. 120)By opening spaces for our students to build on their own life experiences, to “find theirvoices” and allow them to take control of their own learning, we also open ourselves to the
  12. 12. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   12  rewards of doing our jobs well.Music has a unique place in the multicultural lives of our students, but teachers must learnto bridge the meanings they have made for themselves to the unique meanings that areculturally embedded in the life experiences of our students. Kerchner and Abril (2009)describe the special power of music to inspire: Musical experiences that result in the construction of meaning and learning are the spark that can incite deeper understanding of one’s self, others, and culture; can inspire subsequent musical engagement and learning experiences throughout life; or can help to reshape a musical culture. (p. 14)An example of a situation where racial and patriotic tensions must have caused manystudents from non-English speaking backgrounds, to feel disempowered, is the furorcreated over the singing of the American National Anthem (Star Spangled Banner), inlanguages other than English. The reasons for the conflict within the wider community arecomplex and many, but if one frames the problem within a philosophy of openness,solutions appear. At least, there can be understanding and empathy for reactions on bothsides of the divide. It can be fairly observed, that to sanction the singing of the anthem inlanguages other than English, is not an action that embraces openness. Abril (2007)describes how one version of the song, was performed by students from a school for thedeaf, using American Sign Language (ASL). He asks the question, “Why might Spanish bemore offensive than ASL in 2006?” (p. 75). He also cites opposing views, one from theGeneral coordinator of the National Capital Immigration Coalition, Juan Carlos Ruiz who
  13. 13. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   13  explains, “In our countries, national anthems are a beautiful expression of who we are. Ourimmigrant communities want to be part of this country [U.S.]. We want the Americandream” (p. 75). Compare this position with that of columnist Michelle Malkin who calledthe Spanish version the “Illegal Alien Anthem”. As Abril implies, this conflict providesmany opportunities for music teachers to open spaces for their students. Greene (1995)observes that “Teachers imaginative enough to be present to the heterogeneity of social life. . . may also have strong impulses to open pathways towards better ways of teaching andbetter ways of life” (p. 12).Cecilia Ferm (2006) speaks of two important themes for openness to be considered bymusic teachers, “openness for earlier musical experience” and “openness for initiatives”.These two specific objectives of openness with our students may be used as an effectivechecklist for teachers, in everything from curriculum planning (macro) to verbalinteractions with individual students (micro). On openness for earlier musical experience,the author describes how: Four different aspects show the teacher’s relation to the pupil’s earlier experience of music are pointed out: events where the teacher’s interest in the pupil’s musical experience is shown; events that show the teachers’ knowledge about their musical experience; events that give the pupils an opportunity to show their earlier experience; and events that illustrate how the teachers in different ways take care of musical experience. (p. 243)
  14. 14. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   14  And on openness for initiatives, Ferm writes: The theme focuses aspects of the teacher’s openness towards, and encouragement of, suggestions from the pupils. Initiatives from the pupils might focus activities as well as affect their shaping. The aspects are grouped as follows: offers, ways of working, conversation and stimulation/ inspiration. (p. 243)These themes, when considered during interactions with students for whom English is theirsecond language (ESL), will be empowering. Considering the possible classroom eventsand learning scenarios stemming from the Star Spangled Banner situation cited earlier, thisframework of openness would provide teachers with a valuable tool.Openness to change and new ways of doingConsidering Ferm’s second theme, “openness for initiatives”, music teachers who embracea philosophy of openness, will freely consider and choose new ways of working with theirstudents in their practice. In searching for authentic musical experiences and those whichopen spaces (Greene, 1995) for students to construct their own meanings, students maydevise new ways of challenging themselves through creative self-directed projects.Teachers who enable this type of authentic, student-centered learning may find it difficultto relinquish part of their power. The teacher’s role will move towards that of partner, ofenabler, even friend. It will move away from the traditional role of expert and provider ofall knowledge. Sometimes the teacher’s role may be completely transformed into that ofthe student, which may be both confronting and liberating. When both teachers andstudents can release their imaginations (Greene, 1995), and when students are allowed to
  15. 15. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   15  find their voices, the learning environment will be improved.In their study of tertiary music education students’ patterns of musical experiences, Linesand Naughton (2009) warn of the dangers of ‘calculative thinking’ in education. This form of thinking . . . is centered on the objective considerations and deliberations of the individual subject [in this case music]. Problems occur when calculative thinking, in its scheduling and representations of order, begins to obscure or ignore possibilities of learning not deemed important in the predetermination of events. This issue means that wherever calculative thinking dominates educational practice it remains an important task to preserve open pedagogical styles and the perceptive capabilities of teachers so that emergent learning outside the frame of calculation can be affirmed. (p. 3)The musical experience, of many undergraduate music education students, is limitedlargely to the ‘serious’ study of the ‘printed score’ - mostly of technically challenging,western art music sanctioned by the ‘academy’. This “limiting of the student experience”(p. 3) of music teachers-to-be, takes away from them the chance to playfully exploredifferent styles of music or to improvise and think imaginatively about music making, tofreely try out new ideas in music and create meaning. These are the very skills, whichwould set them up to be creative, imaginative teachers, open to new ways of doing.Several authors (Allsup, 2003; Campbell, 1995; Lines & Naughton, 2009) have exploredthe dichotomy of the two musical worlds inhabited by students. There is a clear disconnect
  16. 16. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   16  between music studied at school and all the other musical experiences enjoyed by students.They bring themselves together, at home and in various social contexts to create their ownmeanings through their own music, which is wholly relevant to them. Music teachers whoembrace a philosophy of openness will wonder how the spontaneity and joy of the garageband can be brought into the classroom. Opening spaces for students to explore,experiment, collaborate, and teach each other may be part of the answer. Of course, theremay be no clear answer. Perhaps, it is perfectly natural that the musical experiences andmeanings created by students outside of school should bring them the greatest joy. Perhapsit is also perfectly natural that the musical experiences and meanings created by studentsoutside of school should stay outside. Openness to students’ success, and teachers’ genuineinterest in and support of these musical experiences may be enough. The ideal situationwould be to make connections between the two musical worlds. Bridging this divide isperhaps, one of the most rewarding challenges in music education. It requires openness bythe music teacher in all of the various modes of openness espoused by this philosophy.Lines and Naughton (2009) remind us, “The ideal of pedagogical ‘openness’ is key toensure that [teachers] are in a position where they might discover new possibilities andways of thinking about what they might otherwise tend to conceive as ‘normal’ practice”(p. 5).Logically, a philosophy based on openness to change and new ways of doing, will leadmusic teachers to explore and engage with new technologies in their practice. Aspreviously discussed, the changing roles of the teacher and the dynamically changing
  17. 17. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   17  relationships between teachers and students, will go a long way towards enabling goodworking and learning environments and partnerships with technologies (Folkestad,Hargreaves & Lindstrom, 1998). As good teachers accept that they are no longer expectedto be experts-in-everything, (or even to portray that illusion) they will discover how tocreatively use newer and newer digital tools alongside their students, who will increasinglybe acknowledged as the new experts. Apart from increased creativity achievable throughengagement with technology, this empowering of our students-as-experts will beworthwhile in itself.Success and FailureIn much of what has been discussed here about openness, the implication may seem to bethat this philosophy is the key to success. Success is a natural goal for all endeavors,especially in music education. An interesting paradox should be addressed however, thatby embracing openness, both teachers and students will inevitably encounter failure. Iwould argue that music teachers must be open to failure as a positive learning experience.If one fails, there is usually a clear implication of effort. What is trial-and-error, if not aseries of failures? How would experimentation, improvisation, or practicing a musicalinstrument, be possible without openness to failure? In a society increasingly gearedtowards the product rather than the process, there is danger in avoiding challenge and riskin an attempt to be safe from failure. Again, there is paradox here, since the avoidance ofpossible failure will be a type of failure in itself. The failure to be open to new ideas andchallenges is a failure to be open to eventual success.
  18. 18. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   18  A final thought about openness to new ways of doing, is that if teachers want and expecttheir students to be risk-takers, to be innovative, and to think critically, then teachersthemselves must model these behaviors by being open to new ideas in their practice. AsMaxine Greene (1995) asserts, “I think that if I and other teachers truly want to provokeour students to break through the limits of the conventional and the taken for granted, weourselves have to experience breaks with what has been established in our own lives; wehave to keep arousing ourselves to begin again” (p. 109).How is this a philosophy?Critics of a philosophy of music education based on a concept such as ‘openness’ may askthe question, “How is this a philosophy?” They may identify as weaknesses, what thisphilosophy does not do. For example, this philosophy does not offer a defined set ofinstructions, guides or rules. It does not prescribe policy. It does not prescribe curriculum.It does not give preference to specific practices over others. What this philosophy does, isact as a filter and a catalyst for making choices. These choices may lead to positivechanges in policy, curriculum, practice etc. By offering a filter for choices, based onopenness, this philosophy can, I believe, build courage and resilience in teachers. It createsa multi-directional web for sharing ideas and knowledge. The perceived weaknessesidentified above, are in fact its strengths. Precisely by not being prescriptive, thisphilosophy can be universally applied by all music teachers who are open to the ideasdiscussed in this paper.
  19. 19. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   19   ReferencesAbril, C. (2007). Functions of a national anthem in society and education: A sociocultural perspective. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, (172), 69–87.Allsup, R. E. (2003). Mutual learning and democratic action in instrumental music education. Journal of Research in Music Education, 51(1), 24. doi:10.2307/3345646Campbell, P. S. (1995). Of garage bands and song-getting: The musical development of young rock musicians. Research Studies in Music Education, 4(1), 12–20. doi:10.1177/1321103X9500400103Ferm, C. (2006). Openness and awareness—roles and demands of music teachers. Music Education Research, 8(2), 237–250. doi:10.1080/14613800600779550Folkestad, G., Hargreaves, D. J., & Lindstrom, B. (1998). Compositional strategies in computer-based music-making. British Journal of Music Education, 15(1), 83–97. Cambridge. doi:10.1017/S0265051700003788Greene, M. (1965). The public school and the private vision: A search for America in education and literature. New York, NY: Random House.Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Jorgensen, E. R. (1990). Philosophy and the music teacher: Challenging the way we think. Music Educators Journal, 76(5), 17. doi:10.2307/3400984Jorgensen, E. R. (2001). A dialectical view of theory and practice. Journal of Research in Music Education, 49(4), 343. doi:10.2307/3345617Kerchner, J. L., & Abril, C. R. (Eds.). (2009). Musical experiences in our lives: Things we learn and meanings we make. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education.
  20. 20. Openness: A Music Education Philosophy - Gerard Dutton   20  Lines, D., & Naughton, C. (2009). Changing places: Openness, pedagogy and Heidegger. In Philosophy of Education Society Australasia Conference, Hawaii, December, 2009 (pp. 1–8). Presented at the Philosophy of Education Society Australasia conference, Hawaii, December, 2009.Reimer, B. (2005). A philosophy of music education: Advancing the vision. (3rd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Walker, R. (2007). Music education: Cultural values, social change and innovation. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.