Musiclearninglive 2012 conference in London was a great experience. It was wonderful to meet all these people who really care about music and about education. It was enlightening to learn what happens in other countries and it was also comforting, in a way, to see that there are similar problems in other places as well. We all agree that music and arts education are important, at least for the well-being of the child, if not more than that. The question raised by the authorities is how much time and money should be invested in arts without taking away too much from the “really important things” such as math, languages and sciences.
To me, there is a more important question: where are the teachers in all of this? Are the teachers involved in all those issues? Is their voice heard by policy makers? Are the teachers themselves involved in redefining the role of the teacher in the 21st century or is it just a discussion of university professors and Ministry of Education administrators? For example, I am interested in teachers’ view of one of the issues that came up in the London conference and always comes up when education is discussed: teaching for creativity versus teaching for knowledge. In the case of music, many times it comes up as teaching for creativity or teaching for applied skills. I personally think the question is a little different: My question is: “do we teach the subject matter or do we teach the student?”
Here is an interesting quote from the introduction that D. T. Suzuki wrote for the book Zen in the Art of Archery: “One of the most important features we notice in the practice of archery, and in fact of all the arts as they are studied in Japan and probably also in other Far Eastern countries, is that they are not intended for Utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but are meant to train the mind; indeed, to bring it into contact with the ultimate reality. Archery is, therefore, not practiced solely for hitting the target; the swordsman does not wield the sword just for the sake of outdoing his opponent; the dancer does not dance just to perform certain rhythmical movements of the body. The mind has first to be attuned to the Unconscious.” In other words, the main purpose of teaching is not to make the student proficient in one area or another but rather the student’s personal growth. The proficiency in the subject matter becomes a by-product.
When I speak to people about this, they usually tell me: “I agree, but what about the exams? What about the juries?” And I sing: Imagine all the teachers… (it’s easy if you try)
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