Preparing Teachers to Educate Citizens for Tomorrow's World

October 1, 1972

If young people in our schools are to have opportunities for exposure to and study of the musics of many cultures, then teacher preparation during this decade of the 70's must place emphasis on significant contact with ethnic musics, both in pre-service education and in continuing education for those teachers already in the schools.

In the increasing international existence of America and Americans we must learn about the musical systems of other cultures, which are equally as logical as our own system of western music, but historically predate our system by thousands of years. Young people have open minds about the musics of other cultures, and an increasing number of teachers are willing to become involved in providing ethnic music experiences for their students. But they need guidance and direction as to what to do, and how to go about dealing with non-western music on an instructional basis.

I would like to digress to say that a brief overview of the plan of education in America may give us the framework for what we are trying to accomplish with this panel. In our American system of public education it is during the elementary school years that we try to provide those appreciations, understanding, and basic skills which we will all need in common to be contributing citizens to the society in which we live. The junior high school level continues this development, and the senior high school is the culmination of music study begun in kindergarten or first grade. Assuming that music is an important part of all of those 12 years, we have a wealth of opportunities for the kind of inclusion of ethnic musics that have been proposed this afternoon. The point I am making is that we don't wish anybody to feel threatened. We are not doing away with our western music heritage, but instead adding to it, enriching it in ways that can be significant, and giving, perhaps, new dimensions to the experiences that children have in school.

Teachers cannot teach what they do not know, but it is possible and desirable for prospective teachers, both classroom teachers and special music teachers, to initiate and provide basically authentic, interesting, and stimulating experiences with the music of major world cultures. Ethnic music study could be a shot in the arm for many music programs. Had you ever thought, for example, that in a high school with an enrollment of 2,500 students, only about ten percent of that total number has any opportunity for musical experience or expression? In most high schools all our efforts and preparation are focused on a very small elite, namely the band, orchestra, and choir—for public performance purposes only. What are we doing for the other 85 or 90 percent?

Some of the new activities we could be initiating would be sharing with the general student musics of world culture, having koto classes, having sitar classes—these can be done just as effectively as guitar classes are currently taught. Guided by people who have the know-how and are interested in working with young people, high school age students would be very fascinated by this kind of instruction.

Before we go further, perhaps we might quietly assassinate and bury once and for all that old slogan which is heard frequently, "Music is an international language which speaks for itself." All cultures, as Margaret Mead tells us in the special October 1972 issue of the Music Educators Journal, have used music in their daily affairs, but each ethnic area must be studied on its own terms and in the context of its own development and use in the particular culture. For example, teachers and children whose total experience to date has been limited to the art and folk music of our western tradition will not automatically understand voice quality or instrumentation of Chinese Opera, or Japanese Art Music as found in Noh Drama, or the intricacies of a raga from North India. Consequently, then, the first priority must obviously be to provide a new type of course in the undergraduate curriculum which would be required of all students planning to teach in the schools. I am unalterably opposed to bootlegging this in, as some of my colleagues have suggested. I don't think you have to be an ethnomusicology major to present basic information authentically and effectively. I believe we ought to face the realities of who's going to be doing the teaching, and where they are now employed. Those persons who will deal with more than the initial study of world musics certainly need much more than a beginning, introductory course themselves. But this can come along in a sequence of courses, or it can come as electives, or it can be a part of graduate study.

I certainly do not claim either to be an authority on this subject or to have answers for all the questions which each of us will encounter if he tries to establish new avenues of instruction in traditional schools of music. But I do think that if we are interested learners seeking to find ways of helping teachers provide for young people the understandings, tolerances, and skills which they will need to function adequately and to be contributing world citizens in the years to come, we will succeed. I like very much the outline of the course as given by Professor Trimillos,1 but I think in this connection that each one of us has to work out his own salvation, and what is best in Hawaii may not be best for each of us where we teach. We will each have to be a diagnostician to decide what format will be best for our own university or college.

Course content and activities in ethnic music can, in my judgment, best be organized, and instructional objectives and guidelines best be established, through the cooperative efforts of music educators and ethnomusicologists. The music educator and the classroom teacher are already in the school, but their preparation has not included any major study of the musics of world cultures. The ethnomusicologist spends much time in becoming highly specialized in the musics of non-western cultures. Here we will find the expertise and knowledge which can add variety, interest, and dimension to children's music study. Perhaps a new position should be established for each school district—Ethnomusicologist-in-Residence.

In our polarized society, sometimes it is much wiser to give our attention to other cultures before we begin to struggle with what is black or brown or white in our own environment. Through other cultures we establish new understandings and tolerances about other people, as well as about our feelings towards them and their music.

Changing the undergraduate curriculum and adding new ethnic music courses where they do not now exist in teacher preparation will not be easy. One recent writer, somewhat despondent about curriculum upgrading in his university, wrote that it is often much easier to move a cemetery than it is to change the music curriculum. Ideas in education, per se, however, are changing. For example, very recently completed research at Harvard, directed by psychologist Bertram White, indicated that the most critical time in the intellectual growth of the child is from the tenth to the eighteenth month of the child's life. What is done for the child or not done for him by his mother during this eight month period largely determines his later intellectual capacity and achievement. White believes that within ten years it won't seem at all strange for babies to get intellectual check-ups as regularly as they now get physicals, and for parents to learn to trace the stages of early mental growth as naturally as they now learn to sterilize their babies' bottles. I have cited this example because up to this time most psychologists, educators, and parents have felt that the tenth to eighteenth month period was best served by proper diet, rest, and much loving care for the child. These, of course, will not be abandoned, but other important possibilities for the child's intellectual growth can now be added.

We lack significant research for what can be done musically for young children at a very early age, and we need to have many more pilot projects carried on involving the uses of many kinds of music for them. These projects might aid in developing instructional strategies for helping children to experience the musics of other cultures. Whenever we have had ethnic musics included in the music curriculum in the schools, the response of the children, the teachers, the parents, and the school administration has been most favorable. I refer specifically to the Western States Division of the Music Educators National Conference which was held in Honolulu in 1969, which featured ethnic musics performed by hundreds of children from the Honolulu Public Schools, as well as by adult groups from the multicultured Honolulu community. Just this past fall I heard the Phoenix, Arizona Boy's Choir sing Japanese folk songs in Japanese, accompanied on their director's koto by one of the boys in the choir—a red-headed, freckle-faced fifth grader, probably the only red-headed koto player in existence. He had learned and memorized the accompaniments and they were indeed delightful. This same koto was later borrowed for a school program in another part of the city, and it was used to accompany a seventh and eighth grade choir whose teacher had also learned to play the koto well enough to provide a beautiful and musically different accompaniment for the singing of a group of Japanese folk songs. Many of us who attended the Society for Ethnomusicology meeting in Seattle saw the impressive work done by Barbara Reeder with African music using junior high school age boys. I could cite many more individual examples, including the things that were done at our MENC convention in Chicago in 1970, and at Atlanta in 1972.

Assuming we are here this afternoon with an open mind, I think it is going to be a wonderful experiment for each of us individually to hear the performance after this portion of the panel, and to consider just what our own individual response to it is. How open are our minds about this music? You see, it's changing attitudes that become so very important in this whole matter of trying to revise college curriculums or adding new areas of ethnic study. If you are here this afternoon with an open mind and an interest in examining ways of getting more ethnic music into the schools at all levels, may I tell you that you will encounter much resistance to, and skepticism about your endeavors. Like the uninformed parent who leaves the intellectual growth of his child to chance (what has been good enough a la Dr. Spock during the past twenty-five years is still good enough for most parents), we have many music teachers who are also in this inflexible category. They support the status quo, and most of them state that we should achieve higher standards for western music in the schools before we add non-western musics.

The sad plight of music in many California school districts has already been cited during previous sessions as somehow (at least I got the impression) being the condition of music education throughout the country. California is not a true picture of the rest of the country. And even in California there are still some excellent music programs in schools in some areas of the state. It is not our mission on this panel to discuss or try to suggest solutions to anything as complicated politically and educationally as the lack of music instruction in the California schools. Our task is to take a countrywide view and to project what is desirable in the seventies and beyond in terms of teacher preparation in music. Certainly this includes a variety of offerings in the musics of other cultures.

The MENC has as one of its major priorities the addition of ethnic music study at all levels of the schools, including teacher education. A special issue of the Music Educators Journal is now being assembled and edited for release in the fall (October). The materials contained in it have been written by recognized scholars in ethnomusicology and will include pictures and sound sheets giving examples of the musics of all major cultures, as well as a section on teacher education, spelling out approaches to presentation, listing books, recordings, and other resource materials. I believe this publication can be a first step in the right direction of getting before the entire music education profession some of the things that are essential for the years ahead. There are many more materials available for use in this endeavor than most people realize. For example, some excellent films in color which are entitled, "Discovering the Music of . . . ." (and then it gives the name of the country). Africa, for one, is a very excellent presentation. These can be used as separate study films for the culture concerned. We do need many other resources in the way of instructional materials and instruments. I thought the point made by Professor Liang about the use of community resources was excellent. I suspect that we underestimate in every community the possibility of resource people who can be of great help to us in presenting live performances of ethnic musics.

It is not possible for pre-service education to give a person everything he will need in the way of skills and knowledge for that unknown position which he will later accept when he graduates and goes out to teach on his own. We ought to send him out, however, competent in his ability and knowledge to deal adequately both musically and educationally with the young people whose education in music he will guide and provide. Education is a lifelong endeavor, and a teacher's worth and value increases as he continues his educational pursuits. One of these interests can be ethnic music. Graduate study is an excellent time for building on the general overview gained from an initial undergraduate course in world musics.

Finally, each of us must become aware of the possibilities of adding new courses in ethnic music, under whatever title we choose and with whatever course content can wisely be included. While one may regret the present, musically and educationally (some will spend most of their energy upon such regret), it seems much more fruitful to try to come to terms with the need to see things as they are, not as they were, and thus to construct a realistic base from which to project a better world and seek to bring it into existence. Change for the better in our society and in our schools can be achieved only through the efforts of thinking citizens, and only through education can today's children become the thinking and musical citizens of tomorrow.

1A description of the course, "Music in World Culture," appears in Barbara Smith's article, "Ethnomusicology in the Undergraduate Program at the University of Hawaii," in Symposium XI (1971), pp. 51-54. Professor Trimillos' paper presented at the CMS session in San Francisco will appear in the special issue of the Music Educators Journal devoted to ethnic music in the fall of 1972.

2006 Last modified on November 13, 2018