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Because the learning of an art form is experiential by nature, there should be ample opportunities to bring feminist inquiry into art education. In regards to music, specifically orchestral music, the instrument is very much an extension of the body, and the players are situated in specific relationships to each other: to the conductor, to the audience and to the music. Most music students are not asked to question how the orchestra is set up, or what type of dynamic exists between sections and individual players. Inquiry is not typically a part of the process of learning an instrument or of playing either solo or in an ensemble. The focus is on developing technique. Because learning music is depends on sequential skill development, other aspects of learning are often neglected or ignored. However, the very nature of an ensemble, which implies collaboration and cooperation, provides a multiple pathways for inquiry, and because orchestras are hierarchical and patriarchal in their structure, feminist inquiry would benefit students immensely in understanding the dynamics that come into play in such an environment. Locating themselves, their actual bodies relative to their instruments and to their colleagues, they can go on to explore their performance environment in ways that will lead to new and different perspectives on what is occurring during the act of music making. Is this the only way that symphonic music can be performed? What would happen if the authoritarian element i.e., the conductor, is removed and the process of rehearsal and performance becomes more collaborative? Why is western art music so rigid about precision and control? These are questions that band and orchestra teachers should address with their students.
The power imbalance that exists between student and teacher is one that comes from deeply embedded relationship dynamics and norms that are almost if not impossible to ever fully remove. We are brought up to acquiesce to power, and just our physical relationship as children to adults contributes to this dynamic. We can’t simply shed such a profound sense of self in relation to others who have authority over us. Even as adults we carry the traces of our formative experiences with us into every aspect of our lives. So, the question of how a facilitator/teacher guides without directing students is salient, and in a way the answer is there in the question: the teacher or the facilitator should guide and not direct. I think the crucial element to be established in order for students to feel confident and comfortable that they can explore and investigate on their own is to create an environment where such is not just possible, but encouraged and welcome. Start with engaging students with open ended questions related to a particular idea or topic and then allow them to follow strands of interest that emerge and on which they can then build their research efforts. I do think it is important to establish goals and objectives, as well as for students to develop and understand the criteria by which they can self-evaluate and by which they will be evaluated by others. Having the student conduct self-presentations would help the students reflect deeply about who they are and why they want to pursue a particular idea, theme, or project.
I do believe that art can assist in transforming oppressive structures, although art can also be used to reinforce oppression in the form of propaganda and coercion so as to incite loyalty and to form membership bonds, creating insiders versus outsider dynamics; it can also be used for purposes of torture. Still, art as resistance to oppressive systems and as a change agent in altering power dynamics is much more compatible with how most artists and viewers of art experience it. Intent and interpretation play a large role in whether art is seen as subversive or as protector of the status quo. In the classroom, if students are encouraged to explore both the making and the analyzing of art in ways that lead them to question existing oppressive structures and to see how art can be used both for good and for bad, this will allow them to understand the complexities of art and the roles that it plays in either critiquing society or upholding its values. Also, if students are able to use art to question authority, and to experiment with the power of artistic expression to bring into focus those aspects of society where power resides, it will help them to decode cultural signs that perpetuate dominance. This can be done through gaining awareness of ambiguity, irony, metaphor, symbolism and the hidden messages that are often embedded in cultural expressions.
To me it has always been unnatural to view male and female as strict binaries. To me the concept of Yin and Yang is much closer to how we are as humans: a combination of both. Fluidity of gender has existed throughout human history; the Judeo Christian traditions have a more rigid view of gender, partly due to procreation, but also to the need for control. It is hard for institutions of educations to fully and effectively address the needs of people who do not believe in strict categories of gender because our society has for so long insisted on a non-fluid concept of gender with very specific characteristics assigned to each one. We are taught to assume certain behaviors and attitudes to assert our femininity or masculinity. According to Michael Kimmel men in particular are under scrutiny all the time, and that they are being assessed, by other men, as to whether they are male enough. Education serves many purposes, but one of its main goals is to prepare children to be participants in our society and culture. Until male dominance is dismantled, education institutions will propagate the values of that culture, even when some departments and disciplines work towards changing perspectives. We are in an transition era of significant cultural transformations, and education institutions, like the greater society in which they reside and which they support, will change gradually, and not all at once. Therefore, their ability to help those who have a concept of gender fluidity will be only partial, at least for near future. Still, change is happening, and as long as there are people willing to explore and share ideas, change will continue towards a reality that is defined as less rigid, more open, less constraint, and more diverse. Just don’t underestimate the force of resistance; it can be mighty and ruthless.August 9, 2016 at 2:48 pm in reply to: 3. Men's role in the struggle for women’s equality? #4955
. I do think that men have a role to play in women’s efforts to obtain equality of opportunity and of being valued in equal proportion to men. Men and women are both human beings and exist in relation to one another in a fundamental way. For women to find real equality men must move from their position of dominance and privilege to a state of awareness of and empathy for women. According to Michael Kimmel, one of the characteristics of privilege, of being in the power center, is lack of awareness of one’s state of privilege, i.e., as he also states, privilege is invisible. Those that wear it do so without having to think about it. In order for women to be equal, men must be willing to shed the cloak of privilege that shields them and protects their status, only then can a deep and constructive responsive dynamic exist between men and women. If men alter their masculine posture, it will help women to be powerful, assertive and ambitious as well as possessing qualities considered feminine. Becoming aware and breaking down the codes of what it means to be manly, would go a long way to helping women gain equality.
I believe art education, especially music education, needs to incorporate more experimentation, exploration and creative collaboration. There should also be more inclusion of digital media alongside working on developing performance techniques. But going beyond just the fine arts, education in general needs to change. By embracing the diversity of choices that new media and art experiences provide, students will build on prior experience and gain new proficiencies. Integral and central to this inter- and multi-disciplinary approach is the use of inquiry as motivation, fostering learning as discovery; this, combined with on-going reflections by both teachers and students, leads to insight and self-awareness. Authentic integration of the arts and new media with other disciplines and subject areas will transform curriculum from being linear and striated to being divergent and inter-connected, moving from passive reception to active participation. Still, the learning environment should continue to include concrete experiences; the sensory and the digital should be blended and cooperative; and even with cloud sharing and social media expediting communication and facilitating the exchange of ideas and creativity, it is important for students to experience face-to-face interactions, as well as manual manipulation of physical items. Furthermore, it is essential for students to learn responsible media management so that they know how to control media use as opposed to being in its control. Learning how to balance digital and physical experiences will be an on-going challenge for our society, affecting us psychologically, intellectually, and culturally. The implications, both positive and negative, are deep and broad; the potential for misuses of technology are great, but so, too, are the possibilities for human development that digital media offers, if thoughtfully and mindfully applied. I would add too, that mandatory, standardized, high stakes testing is an anathema to creativity and learning. It is bad for the arts and it is bad for intellectual inquiry of all sorts.
My impression of art education is that it is too narrow and too discipline focused. I realize that each art form needs to be this way to some degree, but I think it has become rigid and non-responsive. I think about this in regards to new media and the implications it has for pedagogy, there is no doubt that we need to affect change in our learning environments; to transform curriculum and how it is experienced. With the widespread presence of digital technology and on-line programs, such as cloud sharing, social media, search engines, and extensive archives, the ubiquity of electronic devices and the popularity of video games, schools cannot ignore the centrality of new media in our children’s lives. To separate learning experiences from lived experiences, is not an effective way to educate. Therefore, it is critical that pedagogy includes exploration, experimentation, collaboration and use of new media. Digital resources should be integrated into the core curriculum, along with the arts, encouraging development of inter-disciplinary, participatory learning, such that creativity and innovation are supported, as well as the gaining of new perspectives. In addition, fine arts disciplines need to interact with each other to a greater extent than what is currently the norm. I also agree that there is too much emphasis placed on achieving results and outcomes, on meeting expectations rather than exploring and gaining insight.
I agree with what everyone else is saying, I think we are missing opportunities to connect art, any one of the disciplines, to broader human themes, as well as to particular human conditions. I see it in music education; the focus is narrow and just about the art form itself, and not even that in any contextual manner.
In regards to music education, which as director of education for orchestras is where my main experience lies, as well as having been a “band mother” for nine years, I have not observed any attempt at cultural responsiveness to issues related to any of the mentioned areas: gender, race, age, sexuality and disability. There may be programs in the field that do address those issues, but I haven’t observed them. Music education is narrow and highly focused; which is understandable in regards to the level of proficiency required to play an instrument at even an intermediate level. Still, it troubles me that there is so little emphasis on developing other qualities, such as empathy and multiple perspectives. Often music students, and even professional players, have under developed social skills, and due to the intensely narrow focus on gaining facility in performance techniques, musicians often find it challenging to make spontaneous connections between their art form and other subjects and disciplines. This model is slowly changing, but the emphasis is on slow. Another lack that is present in many K-12 music programs, as well as college level programs is creative exploration. Composition is often neglected in the curriculum. This is not the case if students pursue jazz, but classical and jazz typically follow different curricular strands. Another problem, is that band and orchestra teachers are often beset with a burdensome requirement for winning contests and competitions; this is especially true in Texas, where band programs are not just large, they are enormous. Along with this highly competitive element in the area of ensemble performance, is an emphasis on solo competition and solo performances. Many orchestra musicians suffer from having been isolated for decades in practice rooms in order to gain the necessary mastery of their instrument to compete in the professional orchestra world. I believe this all has a debilitating effect on the orchestral field, leading to a lack of vision and ability to collaborate. The orchestra, itself, is built on a patriarchal model that encourages authoritarian behavior and responses. The music director or conductor has complete control and the section musicians have little or no say in the interpretation of any given piece. This allows for great synchronicity, but not a great deal of creativity, empowerment or spontaneous expression.