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date: 30 March 2020

(p. 421) Toward Social Justice Pedagogy: Problems and Opportunities (p. 422)

(p. 423) Introduction

Rethinking the Ways We Engage with Others

Gary Spruce, Section Editor

Tapper (2005) suggests that “[o]ne way to deepen our understanding of social justice in education is to look at the ways it manifests in terms of ideology and practice” (p. 412). The chapters in this section seek to deepen our understanding of social justice in music education through exploring the ways that social justice is manifested or inhibited both within and through particular music and music education contexts, practices, and sites of learning. These contexts, practices, and sites include schools, community spaces, music technologies, choral music making, and the ways in which musical value and achievement are assessed and evaluated.

Many chapters draw on vignettes and case studies based on the direct experiences of the authors or the firsthand experiences of those musicians and teachers being reported on. These vignettes and case studies range widely: from the reflections of a music teacher in a secondary (aged 11–16) school in South London (Philpott with Kubilius, Chapter 26) to the experiences of a Chinese musician working in a community in the Henan province in central China (Higgins, Chapter 27), and from music programs with American prisoners in high security “correctional institutions” (de Quadros, Chapter 31) to teachers using music technology with students with emotional and behavioral difficulties in an urban area in northwest England (Savage, Chapter 30).

A number of chapters draw attention to how those musical and educational ideologies that can perpetuate social injustice are promoted either explicitly through official discourses such as educational policies, legislation, and examination specifications (Philpott with Kubilius, Chapter 26; Savage, Chapter 30) or implicitly through the valorization of particular, dominant music practices—most often those associated with Western art music (Higgins, Chapter 27; Louth, Chapter 29; Fautley, Chapter 32). Gaztambide-Fernández and Stewart Rose point out in Chapter 28 how such valorizations are sometimes sustained through narratives that posit hegemonic practices in terms of a social justice agenda—for example, through providing access to dominant musical practices for “disadvantaged” groups. However, these narratives carry with (p. 424) them the implication that those who engage in other, less dominant, practices “lead lives bereft of musical experiences.”

Other themes explored include how dominant ideologies can be sustained and reinforced by unquestioned “understandings” about what is meant by particular terms or concepts such as “urban music” (Gaztambide-Fernández and Stewart Rose, Chapter 28), or assumptions that particular pedagogies inevitably result in more equitable and democratic pedagogies. For example, both Louth (in Chapter 29) and Savage (in Chapter 30) warn that, although music technologies have the potential to disrupt “the reproduction of existing social relations by enabling constructivist, collaborative approaches to music teaching” (Louth), they can equally be used to perpetuate and reinforce inequalities and arbitrary distinctions based around, for example, gender.

For a number of authors there is also the concern that music education is increasingly subject to a quasi neoliberal agenda, where young people are seen primarily as consumers of a commoditized pedagogy (Philpott with Kubilius), resulting in the construction of a “consumerist mentality” (Louth). These consumerist mentalities encourage a kind of political passivity that acts as a barrier to what Freire (1974) describes as the process of “conscientization,” in which young people and their teachers come to a greater awareness of their world and the power relationships, inequalities, and anti- or undemocratic practices that exist within it. Picking up on this theme, Cooke in Chapter 33 posits the central role of critical reflection in promoting social justice, arguing for the importance of teachers and students engaging “with the historical, social and political ideas that surround music and musical learning” as a means by which they might come to imagine alternative musical futures to those that are projected or imposed through dominant educational and musical discourses and ideologies.

Although almost all chapters identify ways in which social injustices are constructed and perpetuated within music education, they equally offer ways forward toward more socially just paradigms, often through describing particular examples of socially just practices “in action.” Sometimes these socially just practices take place against political or ideological backdrops that promote or sustain social injustices or inequalities. Jason Kubilius, a practicing music teacher (Philpott with Kubilius, Chapter 26), describes how, within the context of an increasing “academicization” of English music education, he tries to maintain the classroom as a space open to all the musical practices that young people bring with them into the classroom from outside school. De Quadros in Chapter 31 demonstrates how choral music making in prisons and in Arab towns in Galilee provide opportunities for personal agency, community bonding, and acts of conciliation against backgrounds of intimidation, coercion, or repression. Many of the music education practices described provide examples of social justice practices which seek to enable “ ‘otherwise silenced’ voices to be heard.” (Louth).

Enabling “silenced voices” to be heard is a concern for many authors. Higgins addresses this issue directly in Chapter 27, arguing for a “hospitable” approach to music education that responds to the call from the “Other” for forms of collaborative music making that can provide occasions where silenced voices might be heard. Gaztambide-Fernández and Stewart Rose similarly argue in Chapter 28 for music (p. 425) education practices that allow students’ voices to be heard through acting as “agents of knowledge and cultural production” and as “creators of musical knowledge,” rather than simply consumers of a predetermined curriculum or “method.” Following this line of thinking, Fautley in Chapter 32, regarding the matter of assessment, suggests that “musical quality” cannot and should not be determined exclusively by “external arbiters” but that students will, if supported appropriately, develop and progress most effectively if their voice is heard in judging their own music making by “their own standards.”

In the final chapter of this section, John Sloboda brings the multiple perspectives of musician, empirical psychology researcher, and political activist to bear on social justice in music education. He suggests that in order to make the case for music and musical education as a tool for the promotion of social justice, “rigorous and large-scale evaluations of the effects of this work on its recipients—the young people” are required.

All the writers in this section recognize the critical importance of social justice being theorized, problematized, and embedded in a coherent philosophical framework. However, the manifestations of social justice in practice must be, as they demonstrate, located in these specific historical, social, and political circumstances in which individuals and communities find themselves and within which their music making takes place and has significance.

Freire, P. (1974) Education for critical consciousness. London: Continuum.Find this resource:

Tapper. A. J. H. (2005) A pedagogy of social justice education: Social identity theory, intersectionality, and empowerment. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 30(4),411–445.Find this resource: