Academic Citizenship and Schools of Music in Twenty-First-Century “Engaged” Universities Dedicated to the Public Good

October 1, 2009

Beginning especially during the last two decades of the twentieth century, a new vision and movement for liberal learning in higher education—that of the “engaged” institution dedicated to “engaged” learning and to the public good—emerged in the United States.1 This concerted trend has emphasized the ways in which liberal learning must benefit learners not only as individuals but also as people who can in turn affect society in much more diverse and profound ways. Challenges from accelerating social, economic, and political complexities, including those intimately related to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in American society and in global interactions, have been primary inspirations for this development.

Any intentional or de facto use of artificial boundaries in education does not cohere with ideals of liberal education and what it offers toward the addressing of the needs of humanity. Those needs may never have been any more acute than they are now in the twenty-first century. One can argue persuasively that consequences of the social and political problems we face now will be no less dire than those of global warming and climate change if we do not bring all of our collective understandings and creativity to bear on solving them. Morris Berman is among numerous observers who have made this clear about American society in particular and its effects on the world, citing, for example, a social fragmentation resulting from certain historical focuses on the individual over the collective, a loss of capacity to empathize that can be traced to radical individualism, an aversion to working through social and political problems and choosing anodynes instead, and consequent, deleterious effects on the life of the nation and on foreign policy.2 Others have written eloquently and in detail about problems of this kind and their relationships to philosophical matters in education and music education particularly.3

The recently emerging paradigm of the “engaged” institution dedicated to “engaged” learning and to the public good represents an effort to revitalize liberal education as a primary force in meeting these challenges. Carol Geary Schneider writes that “liberal education fosters the qualities of mind and heart that prepare graduates to live productive lives in a complex and changing world,” with “cross-cultural, aesthetic, and historical knowledge,” “intercultural and collaborative abilities,” and “ethical and civic engagement” being among the intended outcomes for students.4 These can no longer be considered goals confined to a particular curricular fringe that it would be nice to achieve if we can; they must be understood as central imperatives. As Adrianna J. Kezar has emphasized, “The capacity to engage, respect, and negotiate the claims of multiple and disparate communities and voices is critical to being civically literate.”5 And civic engagement itself, in a vast multiplicity of ways in which societies need citizens who are prepared to continuously imagine and create as well as pursue, is critical to the social and political health of humanity. Liberal education in the twentieth century, influenced by Western universalism, did not have a focus on democratic values that would be sufficient to prod students in the direction of public and civic questions,6 but the new paradigm is different. As the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities concluded in 2000:

As a new millennium dawns, the fundamental challenge with which we [in American higher education] struggle is how to reshape our historic agreement with the American people so that it fits the times that are emerging instead of the times that have passed.7

For schools of music to participate fully in this endeavor, they must diligently locate, identify, and dislodge any artificial boundaries and ethnocentric characteristics in their degree curricula. Otherwise, they will not be participating in developing the full range of their students’ potentials toward working for a better world. The phenomenon of music is found in all human societies. In profound and multifaceted ways every musical practice provides a window into the soul of its human culture. Human understandings that can be built through musical interactions among peoples are among those that will continue to be vital to pursuing a humane world. Valuing and supporting music-making in all societies will continue to be essential. Elsewhere, I have proposed a philosophical argument related to this, in which I argue:

At the dawn of the twenty-first century we have both the need and the intellectual resources to grasp a historic opportunity: to view and treat students throughout music education as not only potential creators, recreators, and consumers of the sounded results of musical activity but as potential enablers of musical activity in the broadest possible set of ways.8

Indeed, Bill Ivey and Steven J. Tepper see a coming transformation in American life involving the arts:

In the 20th century, as new media industries emerged, the United States moved away from thick cultural engagement. As art and art making were integrated less into everyday life, we experienced a type of thin participation, defined more by national celebrities, professionals, experts, spectacle, big media, and passive participation. In the 21st century, we can observe encouraging signs of renewed thickening—but not for everyone. Our challenge today—is to figure out a way to thicken our cultural life for all Americans.9

In this endeavor, the most fundamental question to be dealt with on a continuing basis is “what is music?” As David J. Elliott has written, “A philosophical concept of music is the logical prerequisite to any philosophy of music education.”10 A system of higher education in music that is content to graduate a large number of its students with little or no systematic experience in music outside of Western art music, in thinking about music from cultural and sociological perspectives, or in composition and improvisation is in effect using a definition of music for those students that is disturbingly narrow and does not relate fully to liberal learning and the full range of its immense potential for engagement and the public good. Scholarship in the philosophy of music education has been largely, and perhaps ultimately, engaged in illuminating paths away from such narrowness and toward the rich potentials inherent in a comprehensiveness of vision for decades.11 Performance of Western art music, including jazz, for audiences—which has long been given a place of greatest prominence in the curricula of Western schools of music—is something precious to preserve, but by itself it does not define human music-making. Neither does performance of other world musics do so by itself.

Twenty-first-century higher education in music must ensure that all of its students receive systematic experiences in musics outside of Western art music, in examining human music-making from cultural and sociological perspectives, and in composition and improvisation. These are imperatives if schools of music are to produce graduates who are consistently, collectively, and fully capable of acting as engaged citizens across the full range of what is needed in musical dimensions for the public good.

Implications for Faculty Work and the Academic Community

The literature about engaged institutions dedicated to the public good has much to offer about the implications of engaged learning for faculty work and the academic community. Among them are the following:

  • Typically, faculty roles are defined in terms of teaching, research, and service, with service thought of as most closely associated with community outreach and the public good. However, support of the public good can be seen in a broader way, that is, as encompassing teaching, research, and service.12
  • Assumptions that simply educating students serves the public good are passive ones that need to be replaced by pedagogies of engagement, service-learning, problem-based learning, and collaborative learning that can prepare students for civic lives that support the public good.13
  • In service-learning, students simultaneously address human and community needs along with their own learning and development.14
  • This can include problem-based learning that addresses problems derived from actual community concerns.15
  • More research should be community-based, that is, designed to be directly and intentionally applicable to community needs and support of the public good.16
  • Research involving partnerships with communities to meet pressing societal problems is needed.17
  • As Kelly Ward has noted,18 Ernest L. Boyer’s expanded notion of scholarship includes building on traditional discovery by bringing new insight to bear on it by way of integration, interdisciplinarity, applying it to human social problems, and transformation and extension of it through teaching.19
  • In this way, as Ward has also noted,20 Boyer sees engagement as connecting discovery, integration, teaching, and application to the public good.21

Disjointedness and disconnect in contemporary American life, arguably largely the result of vast stretches of suburbia and all that it entails (James Howard Kunstler calls this “the geography of nowhere”22) have left us with insufficient infrastructure for the support that is needed for cultural connections made vital by such human activities as participatory music-making throughout life. Pursuit of both a humane world and a revitalization of music itself in American life are crucial in this new century. Work in support of the public good must include those goals. In order to do it, we need an academic community that embraces genuine, creative collaborations among the music sub-disciplines and, just as importantly, between music and other academic disciplines such as education, social work, sociology, and anthropology. This can result in curricula that provide students with more tools and ways of thinking that can serve them well in pursuing the public good of a revitalized musical participation in American life, which in turn can play a crucial part in a more humane world.



Berman, Morris. Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.

Boyer, Ernest L. College: The Undergraduate Experience in America. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.

________. “The Scholarship of Engagement.” Journal of Public Service and Outreach 1 (1996): 11-20.

________. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990.

Chambers, Tony C. “The Special Role of Higher Education in Society.” In Higher Education for the Public Good: Emerging Voices from a National Movement, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Tony C. Chambers, and John C. Burkhardt, 4-22. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

Colby, Anne, Thomas Ehrlich, Elizabeth Beaumont, and Jason Stephens. Educating Citizens: Preparing America’s Undergraduates for Lives of Moral and Civic Responsibility. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Elliott, David J. Music Matters: A New Philosophy of Music Education. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Green, Denise O’Neil, and William T. Trent. “The Public Good and a Racially Diverse Democracy.” In Higher Education for the Public Good: Emerging Voices from a National Movement, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Tony C. Chambers, and John C. Burkhardt, 102-23. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

Ivey, Bill, and Steven J. Tepper. “Cultural Renaissance or Cultural Divide?” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 19, 2006.

Jacoby, Barbara. “Service-Learning in Today’s Higher Education.” In Service- Learning in Higher Education: Concepts and Practices, edited by Barbara Jacoby, 3-25. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.

Jorgensen, Estelle R. In Search of Music Education. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

________. Transforming Music Education. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2003.

Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. Renewing the Covenant: Learning, Discovery, and Engagement in a New Age and Different World. Washington, DC: National Association of State Universities and Land- Grant Colleges, 2000.

Kezar, Adrianna J. “Challenges for Higher Education in Serving the Public Good.” In Higher Education for the Public Good: Emerging Voices from a National Movement, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Tony C. Chambers, and John C. Bur- khardt, 23-42. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

________. “Creating a Metamovement: A Vision Toward Regaining the Public So- cial Charter.” In Higher Education for the Public Good: Emerging Voices from a National Movement, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Tony C. Chambers, and John C. Burkhardt, 43-53. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

Kezar, Adrianna J., Tony C. Chambers, and John C. Burkhardt, eds. Higher Education for the Public Good: Emerging Voices from a National Movement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

Kunstler, James Howard. The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-made Landscape. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Montano, David R. “Musicians as Enablers and the Valuing of Music Education: A Historic Opportunity in the Twenty-first Century.” In Proceedings of “Music of the Spheres,” the 24th World Conference of the International Society for Music Education, edited by Marlene Taylor and Barbara Gregory, 271-89. Regina, SK, Canada: University of Regina, 2000.

Nussbaum, Martha C. Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Ramaley, Judith A. “Scholarship for the Public Good: Living in Pasteur’s Quadrant,” In Higher Education for the Public Good: Emerging Voices from a National Movement, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Tony C. Chambers, and John C. Burkhardt, 166-81. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

Reimer, Bennett. A Philosophy of Music Education. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice- Hall, 1970.

________. A Philosophy of Music Education. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Pren - tice-Hall, 1989.

________. A Philosophy of Music Education: Advancing the Vision. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Schneider, Carol Geary. “Liberal Education and the Civic Engagement Gap.” In Higher Education for the Public Good: Emerging Voices from a National Move- ment, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Tony C. Chambers, and John C. Burkhardt, 127-45. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

________. “Liberal Education: Slip-sliding Away?” In Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk, edited by Richard H. Hersh and John Merrow, 61-76. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Ward, Kelly. “Rethinking Faculty Roles and Rewards for the Public Good,” in Higher Education for the Public Good: Emerging Voices from a National Movement, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Tony C. Chambers, and John C. Burkhardt, 217-34. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

Woodford, Paul G. Democracy and Music Education: Liberalism, Ethics, and the Politics of Practice. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005.



1For discussion of this trend, see, for example, Kezar et al., Higher Education for the Public Good; Colby et al., Educating Citizens.

2Berman, Dark Ages America.

3For example, see Boyer, College; Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered; Boyer, “The Scholarship of Engagement”; Chambers, “The Special Role”; Colby et al., Educating Citizens; Green and Trent, “The Public Good”; Jorgensen, Transforming Music Education; Kezar, “Challenges for Higher Education”; Kezar, “Creating a Metamovement”; Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity; Schneider, “Liberal Education and the Civic Engagement Gap”; Schneider, “Liberal Education: Slip-sliding Away?”; Woodford, Democracy and Music Education.

4Schneider, “Liberal Education: Slip-sliding Away?” 64-65.

5Kezar, “Creating a Metamovement,” 45-46.

6Schneider, “Liberal Education and the Civic Engagement Gap,” 131.

7Kellogg Commission, 9.

8Montano, “Musicians as Enablers,” 284.

9Ivey and Tepper, “Cultural Renaissance,” 8[B].

10Elliott, Music Matters, 18.

11For example, Reimer, A Philosophy; Reimer, A Philosophy, 2nd ed.; Reimer, A Philosophy, 3rd ed.; Elliott, Music Matters; Jorgensen, In search of Music Education; Jorgensen, Transforming Music Education; Woodford, Democracy and Music Education.

12Ward, “Rethinking Faculty Roles,” 217.

13Ibid., 220.

14Jacoby, “Service-Learning,” 5.

15Ramaley, “Scholarship for the Public Good,” 176.

16Ward, “Rethinking Faculty Roles,” 221-22.

17Ibid., 221.

18Ward, “Rethinking Faculty Roles,” 227.

19Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered.

20Ward, “Rethinking Faculty Roles,” 227.

21Boyer, “Scholarship of Engagement.”

22Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere.

10911 Last modified on October 1, 2018