Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If You Teach Anything....Watch This

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It began in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The home page includes pictures of thinkers from wide walks of life; Billy Graham, Malcolm Gladwell, and Richard Branson to name just a few.

Sir Ken Robinson is a visionary cultural leader, he led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. At the 2006 TED Conference, Sir Ken made 'an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity'. I think all educators would be wise to invest 20 minutes and watch the following lecture. It is inspiring and thought provoking and it may just make you rethink your teaching style from student to student.

The talk was especially compelling to me as a music educator in a community school that services very young children, teenagers, professional adults and senior citizens. Regardless of their age, they seek the tools with which to be musically expressive and my challenge is to deliver students quality information without educating them 'out of their creativity'.

So grab a cup of coffee and be prepared to be entertained, to laugh and to learn.

Monday, July 14, 2008

When the Well Runs Dry

Where will the profession of music education be when school systems no longer support K-12 general ed. programs? Are band, orchestra and choir programs next on the chopping block?

I just read an interesting post from an English teacher in the Bronx who has been told he will be teaching music this coming fall. There's just one problem; he has never played an instrument and knows nothing about music, let alone how to teach it. If this is the type of solution that school boards and administrators are proposing, how long will it be until traditional
music programs simply give way to attrition altogether? What state will the profession be left in when the well runs dry?

This is not a new or recent problem. Music programs in schools have been on the decline for 25 years yet our college educational systems continue to groom future teachers for these ever dwindling positions. This is the 'elephant in the room' for the profession of music education but current curricula rarely if ever offer any alternatives to traditional academic teaching.

Many of the universities I researched employ a standard mantra within their core curriculum that goes something like this; '..our goal is to help the student become eligible for licensing to teach in a public school..'. They of course omit the rest of the sentence...'of which fewer and fewer jobs are currently available'.

Perhaps the opportunity that the internet provides as a delivery system for information and real time communication will create a stronger market for music education in the private sector. And if the old adage proves true that 'success breeds success', maybe more universities will begin to include business oriented courses into their degree programs. Then future educators will not only be well prepared for these options but they may begin to embrace them as an equal or even more enticing opportunity.