What is the Purpose of Music Education?
Last week, the readings and the discussions in class were full of considerations about the purpose of music in modern education. In so doing, we considered a few arguments. One of those arguments was the aesthetic view of music education. Proponents of this view are seemingly in gross disagreement with what they feel is a common trend in music education; that is is for music educators to try to sell the purpose of music education as something to only be considered in support of the other "more important" subject like math, reading and english. They feel strongly that that is not how music education should be viewed. They feel that music education is about teaching students how to relate to beautiful music; teaching them what beautiful music is and what it sounds like; how to appreciate it and how to create or compose it; or even critique it.
Others feel that music education has more of a praxial purpose. In other words, they feel as though learning music is not just for the sake of learning music; it is for the sake of understanding music from the perpsective of the musicians or composers who's work is being studied. They feel very intensely that music should be explored by doing and that while aesthetics are definitely a factor, they should not be the only thing that drives the music education program in schools. They also seem to feel very strongly that students should learn how to "do" music or become "musicers" (David. Elliot).
The socialist view of music education is one indicative of the idea that music education should contribute to helping to shape a better and more civilized society. Cognitive music educators feel that music should no doubt stimulate the brain and mind by inspiring thought and reason. They feel that this philosophy of music education can also support cognitive thinking in other subjects. When considering which point of view I most align myself with as a music educator, I find that I agree with the aspects of more than one of them. I do feel that music education is partly the teaching of aesthetics. The teaching of the beauty of the art of music is integral to the human spirit which lends itself not only to the aesthetic but the socialistic view. However, I have to say that the aesthetic philosophy that music education has no other purpose than to teach students how to percieve and recognize beauty is one I disagree with. I believe also in the theory that music education should be attained by doing as is the praxis view; and that in that; it will lend itself to the understanding of different types of people and the uses and functions of their music as well as the variety and diversity of the theorhetical and aesthetic value of music from the perspective of many different kinds of people. However, I do not feel that music should ONLY be learned by doing. I think there has to be room for listening and evaluating and understanding the feeling or time in the lives of the composers or performers.
I do also believe what studies have definitely shown which is that music education contributes to the cognitive functions of students which does in fact help them excel in other subject areas. I feel that it is not helpful to pit one of these philosophies against the other. I think that one of the perks of an American education is the idea of citizenship and democracy which lend itself to the understanding that it takes scholars in many subjects in order to make a society work. It is not just math or reading or english that is important; or music or foreign language or physical education; nor is it that choral music is more important than private voice instruction or violin or cello or wind ensemble or marching band etc. What is true is that our society is a society of people who excel at all of those different subjects and every subcategory that falls under them individually. I think what is more important is to glean the importance of music education from the perspectives of all of these philosophers and allowing that to guide us as music educators to work together with educators in other fields to point students in the direction of their success and our civilization.