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date: 07 April 2020

(p. 117) Reclaiming Difference in Music Education (p. 118)

(p. 119) Introduction

Beyond Toleration Facing the Other

Cathy Benedict, Section Editor

The question is not one of exercising “tolerance,” but of making present the roots of community and its ramifications, of so experiencing and living in the trunk...that one also experiences, as truly as one’s own, where and how the other boughs branch off and shoot up.

(Burber, 1957, p. 102)

It felt appropriate to incorporate the words “tolerance” and “other” in the title of this section. Both terms seem innocuous enough; stealth-like in character, they almost transcend examination. The authors in this book, and particularly in this section, however, insist on the interrogation of each, both in their words and deeds. “Tolerance” is a word that, when used, rarely raises attention. It enters the discursive space as a sleight of hand, making it almost impossible to stop and ask for clarification or intent. The “other” is perhaps, more obviously, a problematic term, as it is more often than not used specifically to divide and delineate. The above quote of Burber’s exemplifies the beliefs of the authors in this section, all of whom, in one way or the other, grapple with “what makes it bearable for us to live with other people, strangers, forever, in the same world, and makes it possible for them to bear with us” (Arendt, 1994, p. 322). These authors, through personal stories, historical reflections, and empirical research tease out this complexity as they enter into and make their way from seemingly obvious topics to those that may not immediately come to mind as we think of social justice.

The voice of the feminist scholar in music education is one that is both acknowledged and reclaimed in this section. Why remember the stories of women in the field of music education—surely we have grown and moved beyond that need? To begin with, the task is not one of remembering, but rather of contending with the context and ideological discourse that has shaped and shapes erasure. Roberta Lamb and Niyati Dhokai in Chapter 8 remind us that lived stories are too easily forgotten or are simply not known, particularly when these stories were lived during times when these voices were hidden and silenced—indeed, were deemed non-voices. As multigenerational authors, they bring their diverse perspectives and experiences as they read feminism, feminist theory, (p. 120) feminist geographies and cultures through the lens of historical and ethnomusicological viewpoints. Both share personal and public experiences, thinking through their own identity development and those of their students, confronting narratives of institutional power and production. In doing so, they remind us that we might and should engage in the “creation of flexible definitions and include practice-based knowledge and community activism.”

Great power is to be found within the words of our second author, as we are drawn away from the predictable narrative of traditional scholarly work into a world of music and poetry. Seeking to challenge, indeed dismantle, the narrative structure of both the history of social justice and music education, Elizabeth Gould in Chapter 9 chooses to shape a story with the use of historical narrative interwoven with personal reflections. Calling our attention to those ways in which texts work on us, she disrupts the entitlement of “benevolence” we may feel as we read through this Handbook. Flights of deterritorializations allow her to present us movement through ideologies, philosophies, misogyny, racism, and heterosexism as she “cuts loose feminism” so as to “create potentialities of lives worth living.”

While the phrase “minority” continues to function (in many cases) as a label that reproduces social standing and status quo, it is no longer a word that accurately represents the Latino population in the United States. Certainly Carlos Abril and Jacqueline Kelly-McHale, the authors of Chapter 10, are not suggesting that this is why we need to attend to this particular population. Rather, their concern is with the ways that “current pedagogical practices misalign with the values of many Latino students and families, and may contribute to the alienation of Latino families from schools.” They challenge the “access equals equity” paradigm when access is determined and even provided by the dominant culture. Pointing to givens such as competition, the nature of school ensembles, after- and before-school time commitment, musical and cultural identity, and teacher beliefs and attitudes, they help us understand that culturally relevant pedagogy is much more than simply teaching “differently.” They do this by providing examples of teachers who have had both successes and failures as they grapple with these issues in their own particular contexts.

Reminding us that music education often exists in places we might not immediately identify, Kathy Marsh in Chapter 11 calls our attention to music in the lives of refugees and newly arrived immigrant populations. Working with children and arts groups in refugee camps in Sydney, Australia, she documents the lives of children who are marginalized within the already marginalized. She finds that participation in rehearsals and final performances provides “participatory parity, cultural justice, and social inclusion” in ways that, while not at all fluid or simple, do further cultural identity development, and belonging.

Few would ever desire to be called racist or to be thought to engage in acts of racism. We know better as caring individuals, and we certainly know better as music educators. We feel we know this so well that we often believe we don’t need to talk about race or racism—talking about it just brings it out into the open and stirs the pot. In Chapter 12, Deborah Bradley dispels this notion and insists that it is our responsibility (p. 121) to interrogate both terms and to attend to those ways that race and racism hide in our inability to address these issues. She addresses “Whiteness,” “music is a universal language,” “color-blind teaching,” and “authenticity” as constructs, platitudes, and pedagogical givens in order for us to take a “serious, introspective look” at what it is we do and don’t do in furthering an agenda of racism.

Social injustices are perpetuated among multiple peoples and communities. This may be more obvious in some instances than others. Alice-Ann Darrow in Chapter 13 reminds us that historically, persons with disabilities have been marginalized, overlooked, ignored, mocked, and even expunged from society. While benefiting from past civil rights legislation, persons with disabilities continue to gain acceptance in schools and society. However, teachers need to continue to insist on due process and rights for their students, as well as recognize the importance of understanding disability culture and ways in which stereotyping and stigmatizing continue to take place. She challenges the media representations of persons with disabilities and how the arts can play an important role in either reproducing representations or challenging them.

Extending the conversation of othering and other into gender and sexual diversity in the context of public schooling and music education, Louis Bergonzi in Chapter 14 uses the work of Kumashiro to help provide us with the tools to dismantle those ways we continue to benefit from the gender and sexual status quo. Schools are particularly problematic sites, as they too often further and constitute dominant discourses about identity. To that end, activist theory and anti-oppressive education can help to play an integral role in compelling us to recognize the erroneous framing of heterosexuality as “normal.”

In Chapter 15, Richard Matthews concludes this section with his scholarly positioning as a political philosopher and peace scholar. He observes how constructs of privilege and oppression, cultural imperialism, and the legitimation of exploitation are reflected in the words of the authors of these chapters, and reminds us that we are “not condemned to replicat[e] oppression.” Rather, as we think and act upon the issues that were raised, we are in a “powerful position to aid in the promotion of socially just states of affairs.”

These multiple voices, from multiple scholarly traditions, help us to navigate the terrain of difference and otherness. Reflection, reflexivity, care, and agency “[make] present the roots of community” (Burber, 1957, p. 102) so that we might see and know those with whom we share and take responsibility.

Arendt, H. (1994). Understanding and politics (the difficulties of understanding). In H. Arendt & J. Kohn (Eds.), Essays in understanding 1930–1954 (pp. 307–327). New York: Harcourt, Brace.Find this resource:

Burber, M. (1957). Pointing the way. New York: Harper & Brothers.Find this resource: