Sunday, November 14, 2010

Music Education (Part 2) and Supplementary Reflection

Continued from Part 1

It takes a village to raise a choir.  Sure, there are those who are motivated toward musical achievement without the encouragement of friends, family, and their community, but filling a choir with motivated singers does require broader support.  However, if I were to continue on that path of reasoning, my conclusions of "everyone just needs to be encouraged" would apply no differently to music than to any other subject.

Currently, the particular form of communal perception of music that I think is needed is esteem.  When students and communities admire musical accomplishments, a wealth of intrinsic motivation arrives.  You've read my stories about students who approach choir almost no different than study hall, and you've read about situations which diminish the potential of the ensemble but end with the blame falling on a director who is often unfairly powerless.  If students joined choir out of a respect for what can be done with the ensemble, these issues wouldn't be present.  In order for that to happen, a change in perception of the entire school community — students, parents, teachers, and administrators — needs to occur.

I do think that other teachers and administrators respect this choral program, but what we really need is a second choir.  Now, the show choir is already made up of motivated students, and they've built a reputation by performing locally, but we need another during-school choir.  The most successful choral programs that I've seen are built around setting "the bar" higher and higher.  There needs to be a beginning choir that includes music-reading education and establishes proper choral habits (beginning rehearsal on time, focusing on the music, warming up with purpose, etc.), and then an advanced/older choir that is prepared to be challenged into creating music that is deeply worth listening to.  That kind of achievement is the pinnacle of music education because it educates more than the students, but also the community.  Music teachers should see music as a cultural necessity and devote themselves to its development.  In order for them to most readily succeed in that goal, however, the support of esteem for music needs to be omnipresent.

Supplement to 11/12

During the first major incident, Mrs. D and I were told that "perception is an issue," and I conceded that the girls involved are all of the same ethnicity.  It's impossible at this point not to wonder if the lack of discipline is due to an avoidance of disciplining a group of students of minority ethnicity.  The worst part of this apparent reverse discrimination isn't, to me, the unfair treatment involved (though that itself is detestable), but that it ends up fueling racism in the student body.  It is mentally so easy (instinctive, perhaps) to allow the feeling of "Why are they getting preferential treatment?" to turn into a judgement of those are are benefiting from the reverse discrimination and the ethnic/religious/cultural group that they fit into.

While listening to a group of students talk about their frustration with this event, one perceptive student said, "It almost makes me feel racist," in reference to the illogical application of judgement that I just explained.  Reverse discrimination doesn't just manifest in unfair treatment, it also quite effectively reverses the progress we have made against the rampant discriminatory racism of the past.

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