Category Archives: reflection

Disruptions and Reflections: On Asking “Why?” Here and Now

Today I feel called to write. To go deeper into what I do not know. To question further what I am discovering.

We were around seven meetings into our music education-facilitation course, and I felt frustrated. Something was wrong. Part of that responsibility was my own as one of the educators of the group of Israelis and Palestinians learning facilitation skills with and through utilizing the expressive arts, and yet that was not just it. The other entity at fault was the reality enveloping us all: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on socialization and inflicted trauma. As I spoke with one student during an activity trying to reach him, to make him think beyond what has been forced into his mind as a form of submission, inside I felt desperate. Remain calm. Move slowly. Think deeper. Unfold carefully. Love truly. How deeply had this young man been socialized by the conflict, by trauma, and the education system to be functional, and yet with a sleeping consciousness. How could he begin to imagine and think beyond these forces, to think for himself on his own terms as a young person with already the knowledge and experiences to speak his own truths – to awaken. Sometimes I think I am not prepared to do this; sometimes I think maybe I am not supposed to do this at all. After all, am I not also part of the system? This is in the back of mind all the time – submission of another kind that must also be disrupted.  

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This is not my first encounter of this situation with both Israelis and Palestinians of all ages and sectors, but as I work with Palestinian and Israeli youth (and in the summers with Tunisian youth), this is where I encounter it the most. It is not just the loud and terrifying violent events that intrude our lives – for some occasionally and others daily, but rather the quiet and disturbing presence of the conflict in so many aspects of life here, stifling creativity, imagination, and critical thinking. The longer I am here, the more convinced I am of how incredibly deep its influence is in all sectors of society and everyday life from the mundane to the psychosocial. Though Israelis and Palestinians are both resilient “in defiance of and because of” (Gaye, 2014) the conflict, this then still does not leave much energy or room to confront the socialization of the conflict, trauma, and the conflict in general in ways that explore, as Greene says, beyond the dualities (1995) of what is. If the conflict and occupation relentlessly forces us into submission through its cyclical routine, domination, and impossibility as it oppresses both Palestinians and Israelis in differing ways, then we must be disruptive with equal force and possibility. Perhaps this is simply nonviolence, which can also be described as “positive force.” Perhaps in transformational educational spaces, this is where we can find and re-find,  see and hear our true selves, discovering our power to overcome and co-create beyond what is, as individuals and then maybe as a society. 

“All depends upon a breaking free, a leap, and then a question. I would like to claim that this is how learning happens and that the educative task is to create situations in which the young are moved to begin to ask, in all the tones of voice there are, “Why?” – Maxine Greene, p. 6, Releasing the Imagination 

Like Maxine Greene says, we must be moved to ask “why” in all of “the tones of voices there are” (Greene, p.6, 1995). In a protracted conflict, asking “why” can feel dangerous. Any part of life, whether nationalistic ambitions, religious understanding, methods of resistance, which cannot be questioned, simply become dogmatic – an “ism.” Suppressing and not teaching the act of questioning of society and oneself enables old, oppressive structures to remain in place. Often I tell my students, “If there is nothing to question, there is nothing to learn. And there is always more to learn, therefore there is always more to question.” Enabling these oppressive structures to stay in place by those who benefit from them is its own kind of “banking concept” (1970) as Paulo Freire speaks of, where there are “attempts to control thinking and action,” which then “inhibits their [women and men’s] creative power” (Freire, p.77, 1970). I ask my students questions, such as: “How do we break free, as Greene speaks of, from the given, the taken-for-granted, the ordinary? What feelings are involved in breaking away? What is “wide-awakeness” in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to you? If we are all “becoming,” then what are you “becoming?” Answering these questions requires critical thinking, self-reflection, and raising of critical consciousness. It requires the possibility to imagine what you are not yet. These questions are not only fitting to those involved in a place of protracted conflict. These questions are relevant for everyone, everywhere, while challenging Whiteness, patriarchy, colonialism, self-depreciation, education reform and capitalism in its many harmful forms, and the lack of youth voices in society. And yet this is not only an intellectual exercise, but also an emotional one. The heart is exposed when speaking of identity, narrative, and belonging. Israeli and Palestinian youth speak about how this can feel terrifying, frustrating, confusing, painful, and unsettling, and yet also gratifying, interesting, exciting, comforting, and freeing. To ignore the emotional needs, irregardless of whether Israeli or Palestinian, is equally irresponsible and negligent of the educator when seeking to do everything in her power to reach a young person while she is navigating the socialization of the conflict and trauma. We cannot shut down the heart, whether our own or our students. As hooks says, “When we love, we can let our hearts speak” (hooks, p. xi, 2000).

The call for transformative educational spaces with a critical pedagogy, anti-oppressive competences, and locations of possibility (hooks, 1994) sustained through an “ethic of care”  (Holloway & Krensky, 2001) and attention, from the origins of the word “to hold,” of the participants’ emotional needs could not be greater. In fact as socialization of the conflict is multifaceted, it must also be challenged through an intersectional (Crenshaw, 1989) approach by considering all of the mechanisms of power across class, race, ethnicity, ability, language, religion, and gender. There is so much marginalization of many different groups in this conflict, within and beyond just the two pillars of Israeli and Palestinian. Perhaps by including educational competences about feminism, human rights education, the language of feelings and compassionate communication, in addition to values-based education and learning about each others’ narratives and realities, solidarity can grow. As a musician, I strongly believe as well that we awaken when we experience the arts, musicking (Small, 1995), and co-creation, where we can therefore internalize and continuously renew these topics by actively examining, digesting, putting into practice, processing, self-reflecting, and questioning the many realities and truths co-created within an equalizing process and ultimately, equally a part of each of us. Seeking structural changes in the education systems here from formal to nonformal education are also desperately needed. Often these days I wonder (beyond curriculum and educational process) what this could look like on the level of student/participant, educator/facilitator, organization/NGO, and policy/school system.

Delving deeper into these questions is the responsibility of the educator, the student, the individual, and the society – both Palestinians and Israeli Jews. It is a matter of the heart, mind, and soul. It is a decision to not be complicit in the old, oppressive structures, while also activating possibilities of philosophical and emotional regeneration, of what could be – to ask why?

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APA Citation: Gottesman, S. (2017, June 7). Disruptions and Reflections: On Asking “Why?” Here and Now. Retrieved from: https://musicintervention.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/disruptions-and-reflections-on-asking-why-here-and-now/

REFERENCES

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. U. Chi. Legal F., 139.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York, NY: Continuum.

Gay, R. (2014). Bad feminist. Hachette UK.

Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Holloway, D. L., & Krensky, B. (2001). Introduction: The arts, urban education, and social change.

Hooks, B. (2014). Teaching to transgress. Routledge.

Hooks, B. (2000). All about love: New visions. William Morrow.

Small, C. (1995). Musicking: A ritual in social space. A lecture at the University of Melbourne June 6.

Reflections: Challenges of Building Critical Music Education Spaces Within Inter-Group Conflict

Often as a practitioner-music educator, I find myself pondering many questions that arise from my work in practice and how they relate back to theory. Most days, questions arise that I would like to unpack further, but cannot find the time. In fact perhaps each day new questions arise that I can never fully unpack. Many times I feel lousy that there is not the time to explore everything that comes up in practice as fully as I would like. I assume this constant struggle with time is the story of every educator. During these times,  I think of my teachers and inspirations who somehow seem to do so much, if not all, as practitioner-educators. Teach. Question. Write. Ponder. Produce. Examine. Challenge. Reflect. Suggest. Be Present.  In the spirit of their tireless work, I will share one of my current quandaries. 

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Recently, I wrote an article for 972.Mag questioning the criticality of the work of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations, emphasizing that if even we in the peacebuilding and reconciliation fields cannot name the inequality in front of us and within our programs, how do we expect those in our spaces of learning and in society to do so either? As you have perhaps guessed, I am also a part of this field, working for two such music education NGOs. But even the former statement is overly simplified, and paints an incomplete explanation of the issue at hand. We, as educator-practitioners, must constantly look much closer and deeper through a critical lens at what we are creating (or not creating) within our programs. Every decision and action of ours, whether in determining structure and pedagogy of the program to facilitation techniques and overall theory of dialogue, does not happen within a vacuum. The continuity of experience (Dewey, 2007) for our youth musicians[1] within our programs is in continuous formation, and directly affected by our choices of action, and inaction. We are responsible, and one of the largest “of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only the particular things she/he is studying at the time.” (Dewey, 2007, p.48) All of these factors matter. And in that same light, all of these factors determine if we, as practitioner-educators, are actively choosing to build with our youth musicians a just, positive peace. (Barash, 2009, p.146)

Reading Our World HB: Haifa

How can we look at this issue through an educational theory lens? A good starting place is beginning with John Dewey’s theoretical examinations of educational experience or experiential learning. Experiential learning is a basic component for all learning, and a particular component of many Israeli and Palestinian peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations with such a large focus, across all mediums, on sharing one’s narrative and experiences, and learning by listening to others. John Dewey in Experience and Education explores the differences between traditional and progressive education, with a concentration on the possibilities of either, and how these relate to the conception of learning through experience. 

Dewey challenges the assumption that traditional education is inherently negative, and therefore against progress, while progressive education must be automatically better by default because it is modern. Instead of placing the old and the new as reactionary, direct opposites of each other, Dewey points out that experiences aren’t lacking in traditional education, but rather they are “defective and wrong character- wrong and defective from the standpoint of connection with further experience.” (Dewey, 2007, p.27) The inability of traditional education to foster experiences that lead to further growth limits learning, equality within learning experiences, and the ability to adapt to our globalizing, ever changing world. In other words, “It is not enough to insist upon the necessity of experience, nor even of activity in experience. Everything depends upon the quality of the experience which is had.” (Dewey, 2007, p.27) An often missed point is that this does not only serve as a reason to not teach with traditional education, but in addition applies dually to any type of progressive education in both formal and non-formal education. 

How does this relate back to musical spaces of learning amidst inter-group conflict? The majority of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations exist within the structure of non-formal education, meaning that they exist outside of the formal school system, but have some type of structured learning, largely with an emphasis on experiential learning. In any of these educational youth programs, music or not, each has the potential to either be mis-educative or lead to further growth depending on its structure and pedagogy. “The belief that all genuine education comes about through experiences does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative.” (Dewey, 2007, p.25) Some experiences can be “mis-educative” (Dewey, 2007), and any experience that is mis-educative “has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience.” (Dewey, 2007, p.25) Of course the obvious choice is: we would all like for our programs to lead to further growth. Yet, the chances of this happening is connected to our ability to foster quality experiences dependent on:

  1. “an immediate aspect of agreeableness or disagreeableness” (Dewey, 2007, p.27)
  2. “its influence upon later experiences” (Dewey, 2007, p.27)

If inter-group power dynamics manifesting in the representation of who is speaking over another, constant use of the dominating language in the group, speaking in a language not everyone understands equally, and control of one ethnicity group in decision-making processes within the group over the other ethnicity, are not identified, challenged, and disrupted, quality of experiences will be lost and be unequal. Practitioner-educators and staff personnel cannot just learn to be aware of what are these dynamics. A critical, youth-centered pedagogy and structure must be adopted, and even beyond that, implemented with Paulo Freire’s critical ingredients of love, care, humility, and solidarity.

Like most uncharted educational territory, new questions bubble to the surface, such as: what is a “quality-of-experience” educational structure for a music peacebuilding/reconciliation education program? What should dialogue look like? How should understanding and knowledge be assessed? What is considered a successful program? All of these questions could be answered differently by different organizations depending on context. No matter the context though, addressing power dynamics and the experiences of learning within the bounds of the program, and considering experiences of learning outside of the program occurring simultaneously, are nonnegotiable. In the words of Dewey, “A principle responsibility of educators is that they not only be aware of the general principle of the shaping of actual experience by environing conditions, but that they also recognize in the concrete what surroundings are conducive to having experiences that lead to growth.” (Dewey, 2007, p.40) This is even more crucial in peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations to challenge existing power dynamics while also transforming violent conflict. Ultimately, one cannot be won without the other. 

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Within a protracted conflict, cycles of violence and systemic injustice are reoccurring everyday, often affecting Israelis and Palestinians in disproportionate ways.  As the conflict continues to spiral, its affect takes a toll on each ethnicities’ socialization. It is the duty of peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations of all mediums to disrupt this socialization of separation, segregation, violence, hate, and incitement by using a critical pedagogy in education to foster new structures and frameworks of equality, freedom, rights, and dignity. After all, education is not synonymous with socialization (Hansen, 2010), whereas the opposite is the case of socialization, which creates and informs experiences of learning, both of quality and mis-educative. 

As music educator-facilitators, it is our responsibility to build a musical space that is loving, caring, dialogical, and critical for our youth musicians. Within this space as a location of possibilities (hooks, 1994), youth musicians are enabled to fully explore the boundlessness of music, while also learning for and about peacebuilding, nonviolence, solidarity, human rights, social justice, coexistence, and coresistence. Ultimately, this is a means and an end, a continuity of experiences, a process-product-process-product progression of raising the critical consciousness of youth musicians, in which they can transfer their new and renewed knowledge, understanding, and skills to less safe spaces in their world. We must pay attention (from the linguistic root “to hold”) to the balance of individual youth musician growth within the group dynamic and the overall encounter dynamic in and between the group identities of Israeli and Palestinian- not to mention as well gender dynamics. Our curriculum, or beginning formations of curriculum, must be built with the structures and pedagogy of values, such as equality, freedom, rights, dignity, in addition to musical content and pro-social skills, that will lead to (e)quality experiences[2] “that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences.” (Dewey, 2007, p.28) 

Recognizing the need always for more context and examples, I leave you with a few questions to reflect upon and a few articles to peruse:

1. When building an educational musical space, what are our assumptions about those participating, and the underlying power dynamics within space, language, knowledge, and culture?

2. How do we address the needs and feelings of every youth musician equally? And along those lines, how can this musical space be a safe or safer space for every youth musician equally? 

3. How do we introduce meaningful musical content through a critical pedagogy that is connected to the new, and yet the local? In other words how do we as music practitioner-educators foster a space where what is loyal to the local/known, and what is open to the new/unknown (David Hansen’s Cosmopolitanism and Education) can co-mingle, exploring harmonies and  dissonances between the two and beyond.

4. Confrontation and pedagogy: Cultural secrets, trauma, and emotion in antioppressive pedagogies – Ann Berlak

5. How to Talk About Privilege to Someone Who Doesn’t Want To – Jaime Utt 

6. Education and Experience – John Dewey

I hope these support further questioning and bubbling to the surface that will take us all beyond dualities and into places of “in-between” and “becoming,” as we navigate the daily challenges and excitements of this work with our youth musicians. 

“The relation between freedom and the consciousness of possibility, between freedom and the imagination- the ability to make present what is absent, to summon up a condition that is not yet.” (Greene, 1988, p. 16)

[1] I refer to youth participants as “youth musicians” throughout the article to address specifically my context and for ease of understanding. The term “youth participants” of any project, whether arts-based, sports-based, etc., is also an applicable term instead of “youth musician” in every instance. 

[2] I have placed the “(e)” in front of “quality” to emphasize that the quality of experience in an inter-group space depends on whether “equality” is present in structure, pedagogy, and content. This is a new theoretical musing of mine that I will investigate further in upcoming posts. 

 

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APA Citation: Gottesman, S. (2015, February 24).Reflections: Challenges of Building Critical Music Education Spaces Within Inter-Group Conflict. Retrieved from: https://musicintervention.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/reflections-challenges-of-building-critical-music-education-spaces-within-inter-group-conflict/

REFERENCES

1. Berlak, A.C. (2004). Confrontation and pedagogy: Cultural secrets, trauma, and emotion in antioppressive pedagogies. Counterpoints, 123-144.

2. Dewey, J. (2007). Experience and education. Simon and Schuster. 

3. Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum.

4. Greene, M. (1988). “Freedom, education, and public spaces.” In The dialectic of freedom (pp. 1-23). New York: Teachers College Press.

5. Hansen, D. (2010). Cosmopolitanism and education: A view from the ground.The Teachers College Record, 112(1).

When Music Becomes a Place of Subjugation

This article was extracted from a 972 Magazine article: When Music Becomes a Place of Subjugation 


In our ever-growing jungle of protracted conflict and systemic injustice, there is an unquestionable need for inter-group reconciliation encounters between Israelis, Palestinians, and Palestinian-Israelis constructed with peacebuilding and human rights education. What is often missed is that peacebuilding and reconciliation are not simply the answer. They must and can only be a solution when applied through a critical praxis that addresses systemic injustice and inter-group power dynamics even within peacebuilding and reconciliation endeavors.

As a musician-activist educator, and member of this extended peacebuilding and reconciliation community, it is my responsibility and the responsibility of my colleagues to speak out when this crucial aspect of our work has been violated. I experienced that violation a number of weeks ago when attending one of the only openly public “peace” events that seem to exist in Jerusalem. To my shock and dismay, we just don’t get it.

As widespread violence continued to blanket this divided city, there was a pocket of hope: this year’s first in a series of open and free-to-the-public musical “peace” events.  Several years ago, this idea was birthed with the purpose of uniting Israelis and Palestinians through song and dialogue. Israeli and Palestinian communities would come together for a night of bilingual singing and teaching of each others’ narrative songs, break bread together, and engage in dialogue. I had attended one of these events in Jerusalem in 2011. To my understanding at that time, it upheld many of the values it committed to as an equalizing, joint Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding and reconciliation encounter.

Over the years, dozens of peacebuilding and reconciliation organizations have sprouted, focusing on many mediums such as sports, dialogue, and the expressive arts as a means and end to transforming conflict. While the aspirations of these organizations are noble and well-meaning, they often cloud overall peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts. More often than not, they do not address, whether through unwillingness or ignorance, the direct power dynamics and inequality that continue the patterns of systemic injustice and conflict, rather than producing new patterns based upon building equal social relationships that can challenge inequality, lack of freedoms, separation, segregation, and mistrust. These patterns of systemic injustice and conflict, which are intertwined into the socialization of society through educational, ideological, and political systems, will continue unless critically challenged.

Now several years later in 2014, with two more “casual” wars behind us, apartheid-like, silencing legislation in our midst, and greater lack of trust and understanding, I still wasn’t expecting this musical “peace” event to be particularly critical of the occupation. I wasn’t expecting something revolutionary that pushed the boundaries of society here that feel, often on both sides, entrenched in decades of scars, fear, and pain. Yet, what I saw and heard was nothing like what the event had been in 2011, and was hardly an acceptable event to unite Israelis and Palestinians. It achieved “whitewashing” at best.

How could it be at a musical “peace” event between Israelis and Palestinians that there was practically no music played or sung in Arabic, unless sung by Israelis? The event’s MCs, who happened to be one Israeli and one Palestinian from Shuafat, said that this event was not about “Kumbaya.” We were told that attending was a hard thing to do, and that we would undergo a challenging experience. There was also some mention that it was difficult, if not practically impossible, for anybody to attend from Shuafat Refugee Camp that night because the Israeli authorities had closed off the camp in the wake of more cyclical violence in the streets of Jerusalem. Mostly people continued to smoke and drink their beer. The Israeli announcer controlled the conversation. The Palestinian announcer seemed to be looking for space — any space.

After the announcers and two singers, both surprisingly Israeli who were supposed to teach the audience songs in Hebrew and Arabic, finished their bit, the main act began. I expected from this famous globetrotting Israeli artist something strong and meaningful as part of the main act, shared with a Palestinian-Israeli singer.  I thought he could be a voice speaking out against the sickening violence, and inequality enveloping us. I thought he could be the amplification for activism and solidarity at this musical “peace” event. I wanted him to recognize, to be of witness of what is happening here that affects both Israelis and Palestinians, even if in disproportionate ways. Nothing. All the while, the crowd continued to drink and smoke, while a few individuals slipped through the crowd passing around little stickers promoting an upcoming event against racism in Jerusalem.

As I stood with a Palestinian member of the Israeli-Palestinian youth organization I work for — from Shuafat Refugee Camp — who had suggested attending this event in the first place, I couldn’t help but wonder how he felt and what he thought. I personally felt embarrassed. What kind of event was this anyway? A party to celebrate Mizrahi-ness as a translation for Palestinian-ness? To find the “Arab” in each and every one of us? To party like it’s “haflah-time”? I tried to read his face. I tried to see how comfortable or uncomfortable he felt with each passing faux pas. All I could think of, from my “critical pedagogy in education” lens, was how this event, meant to be liberating in the wake of violence, separation, racism, only continued to subjugate him. We hadn’t entered a public space of freedom; it was the same space as practically everywhere else here for Palestinians, just masked and packaged differently.

I am not lambasting this particular event to condemn it from happening again, or to say that those who organized it don’t mean well. I also recognize that the growing strength of the BDS hinders Palestinian participation even in the most critical programs that address the inequality, violence, segregation, racism and occupation. This is also why these types of events are so crucial to tackle the multiple forces on both sides that divest from building a safe, equitable future for all. In all seriousness though, if we who consider ourselves to be “peacemakers” or who work for or with peacebuilding and reconciliation organizations cannot uncover the continuation of power dynamics within our own programs and events, if we cannot think critically of our words and actions, then what we are doing at the end of the day does more harm than good for peace, justice, and those most marginalized in this relationship: Palestinians.

If this is what exists, then it’s not enough. If we in this field do not engage in praxis[1]nor familiarize ourselves with the teachings of Paulo Freire, Johan Galtung, Ann Berlak, Zvi Bekerman, Monisha Bajaja, and Amin Maalouf among others, our programs will further the patterns of systemic injustice and conflict rather than liberate. We ask ourselves why there isn’t peace? Well certainly peace and justice won’t come if we continue to work this way. If even we can’t name the inequality, then who will?

This goes to say: we, in the field of peacebuilding and reconciliation, must look at our programs and events that bring together Israelis and Palestinians through a much more critical lens. Essentially, we must re-educate society to witness the power dynamics that exist here and learn to challenge them, in addition to building trust and mutual understanding. We must be open to being the stranger, thoughtfully and critically addressing the systemic injustice even we may contribute to, despite our best intentions and hopeful hearts.

*B.G. Silver is the pseudonym of a musician-activist educator living in Jerusalem. Her current jam includes Janelle Monae, Brahms, Bustan Abraham, Alicia Keys, Yo-Yo Ma, Gil Shaham, John Legend, Amy Winehouse, Dvorak, Umm Kalthoum, and Beyonce. The author asked not to use her real name in order to protect the organizations she works for and the increasingly sensitive work they do.

[1] “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (Freire, 1970, p.34)

 

A Letter to Those Co-Creating Social Change With and Through Music

Dear musicians, music educators, scholars, educator-facilitators, activists, researchers, and anyone else who would like to join,

It has taken me a while to arrive here. It has taken me a while to piece together the many strands of what I have experienced in practice and learned in theory this past year. It is not until recently that I “caught sense” of what is this developing grassroots field we and the youth we work with are in the process of co-creating. More than ever I feel this edgy pressure bellowing down my back to share, and to make accessible the funds of knowledge I’ve gained while studying my MA at Teachers College with you all- musicians, music educators, scholars, educator-facilitators, activists,  researchers, and anyone else involved in this field throughout the world. It is the language and understanding of this field that I hope to develop in dialogue with you all who are investigating theory and who are in practice on the ground.

When asked earlier this semester by a professor of mine that I highly admire whether it was my goal to publish anything by the end of this year, I answered with a resounding, “No.” I shut that door so closed that I could feel my eyes squeeze shut. Let’s be real, putting  your discoveries down on paper and then sharing them on a public platform is terrifying. Many questions arise surrounding your validity, your right to lay down such ideas, explanations, and beliefs: Will they think it’s smart enough? Will I seem “expert” enough? Does this really matter? Who is this for?!

Several weeks ago, I had, in the words of educational philosopher Maxine Greene, “an awakening.” When will it be time for me to assume this role of interpreter, researcher, knower, doer, and sharer in this developing field? As long as I wait for the next understanding, and then the next understanding, I will find myself waiting forever. No change can come in waiting, whether boldly big or significantly small, for somebody else to tell you that the time has arrived. Along these lines, I found within my own musical and administrative work with grassroots music education-youth empowerment nonprofits that a divide arose before me between the language that I have learned in my MA and the language that is understood on the ground in practice. Overcoming this divide is critical, and the way I believe we can do this is by uncovering the existent bridge between theory and practice, so that individuals from both worlds can speak with each other.

What is theory after all but just a way of explaining ideas and understandings? What is practice after all but the carrying out of ideas and understandings? Educational philosopher Paulo Freire speaks of the idea of praxis, the conjoining of theory and practice. In other words we learn by taking action and then from reflecting upon this action. And who are educational philosophers anyway, but people who do not take what happens in the world for granted by noticing the world around them and who they are in this world. It is the re-recognizing of our everyday knowledge that exists within every one of us, while uncovering new parts of ourselves when we experience and reflect upon new things or re-experience and reflect upon past things- like the already existent bridge between theory and practice that we are unveiling.

I thought this was clear to me after all my experience in practice and now time in academia, but then felt a reverberating shock when I found myself entangled in this abyss. It became clear that my call to write could wait no longer as I found myself part of the system that continues to create this divide. I had become “the stranger” to the world of practice when my first steps into activism and social change were born in practice! And yet, could I have made this discovery if I did not find myself “the stranger” in this situation where what had been familiar became unfamiliar?

It is my utmost goal from this point on to do everything possible to unveil the bridge connecting these two worlds with you through interpreting and discovering with care, providing points of entry for those involved in theory and those involved in practice, and hopefully co-creating with you all an ever evolving space in which these two worlds meet, so we can truly foster social change through our daring work.

With love,

Shoshana

Structure and Creativity: Learning about and for Peacebuilding & Musicmaking

The field of peacebuilding is ever growing and expanding with new partnerships forming between state and non-state actors through more creative ways of access enabled by advancing technological platforms.  Amidst a rather negative media that seems to be more willing to tell stories of conflict, rather than stories of peacebuilding and reconciliation, it is incredibly important to create a stronger emphasis on exposing communities to the integral activism that is occurring perhaps even in their own backyards.

As the field of peacebuilding continues to grow, so too does the development of critical peacebuilding education increasingly with a focus on music and the expressive arts. One such example of this was brought to my attention recently.

The grammy winning Colombian musician Juanes, a familiar name in my own music library, recently partnered with the United States Institute of Peace Global Peacebuilding Center (GPC) to address his activism as a musician and peacebuilder through music.  This partnership, between state and non-state actor nonetheless with music as a medium for social activism, perked my interest. Not only does this partnership facilitate and serve as an example of the many ways in which music can be utilized as a tool for social activism, but in addition it is a resource perfect for the classroom readily accessible through the Internet and technology.

Searching further on the GPC website, I found a short video segment created by GPC recognizing the importance of youth and peacebuilding pointing to the growing power of youth via social media and technology.

In the music classes I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at KIPP Star Middle School in Harlem, I used both the GPC’s Juanes video segment and the Bukra fi Mishmish music video, written and performed by Israeli and Palestinian youth members of Heartbeat, as examples of how music is powerful. From there, we asked ourselves: what is our Hope List? What do we hope for ourselves, our families, our communities, our world? Our Hope Lists, which will ultimately serve as the foundation of the last song(s) of the semester, were shared via an exercise called a Sensitivity Line (to view, please visit the KIPP Star Musical Collective blog).

The Sensitivity Line is a group performance exercise that was taught to me by PYE- Global: Partners for Youth Empowerment during the Seeds of Peace-Educators Course I attended last August. The Sensitivity Line gives each student the spotlight to shine, yet while in a group atmosphere with group support. By putting the student constructively “on edge”, the interest in delivering a rewarding outcome in front of peers increases the student’s affinity for self-efficacy, thus building self-confidence, too.

I was impressed with the overall results of this classroom activity on many levels. My students:

1. Had fun!

2. Learned new aspects about music, musicmaking, and peacebuilding.

3. Deepened their understanding about themselves, their peers, and their communities.

4. Expressed critical consciousness, solidarity, and imagination.

5. Were constructively put “on edge” by performing through the Sensitivity Line

6. Experiencing the concepts of drafting and process.

I look forward to the possibility of many more classroom activities such as this one, which facilitate growth and creativity, while teaching about and for the subjects on hand. After all, great partnerships and imagination made this classroom activity possible.

(And by great partnerships, I am also referring to the genius and loving nature of my best friend who created the idea of the Hope List.)

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I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

A Bird’s Eye View: Welcome to Class!

 
The purpose of this blog series, “A Bird’s Eye View,” is to give a periphery overlook into my classes at Teachers College, Columbia University. The majority of topics will derive from class assignments, specifically this semester from the course Creativity and Problem Solving in Music Education. Besides sharing experiences in learning in exposing a process of learning, I hope that beneficial insight from the classroom will seep into these posts for you- the reader.
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Earlier this week, I began my graduate school studies at Teachers College, Columbia University pursuing a MA in International Educational Development with a focus on peace education. A say what? Yes, a MA in International Educational Development with a focus on peace education. Don’t worry, many others already pointed out that the title is long and semi-baffling. Before you ask the next question, let me take a step back and then elaborate further.

Comparative education is described by comparative education academic I.L. Kandel (1933) as the study of “general education, elementary and secondary, in the light of the forces- political, social, and cultural-which determine the character of national systems of education” (qtd. in Bajaj, 118). Now place comparative education into an international context where all of the above is researched at a global level, with the added intent of producing international content and programs that reflect research and theories that also foster intercultural understanding by bringing “together students, teachers, and scholars from different nations to learn about and from each other” (Epstein, 918). This, my friends, is international education development.  Both comparative education and international education intersect with peace education. All three of these terms are connected to relatively new, expanding fields reacting to current events and meeting the needs of our current globalizing world.

The study of international educational development can entail many focuses. Mine will center on how the creative process of music is used as a tool for social activism to empower youth and transform conflict.

Our first class discussion in Creativity and Problem Solving in Music Education revolved around the usual topics of “what is music?” and “who is a musician,” yet in a much more fascinating way ushered by inspiration of John Cage amidst his centennial. John Cage, best well known for his piece 4’33”, was a controversial modern composer and innovator who pushed the ideas of music and sound, performance, and purpose.

Of course we in class were given the chance to experiment in the making of all sorts of creative music/sound/noise with whatever we found in the classroom. Not going to lie, it was actually empowering at times and fun! I started with my Starbucks coffee cup, and then moved to a drum stick and blinds. That’s right, I was playing the blinds.

The reflective portion of the assignment was to divulge into what is considered beautiful music/sound and, when we perceive music/sound as ugly, why is that so? Two great readings, which are included (Greene – I still wonder at how unaware I was (2000) & Sheehy – Children Sound) for your curiosity as well, were utilized to supplement our writing. Many of my peers spoke about the sounds they heard in New York City or the performing we did in class. For whatever reason my reflective piece took on a whole different edge. I’m sure if John Cage read it, he would understand. “It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else. Here we are now.” (Artificeofeternity, 2009)

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“It’s obvious this page not for any of you, and its more obvious we don’t want to deal with any one of you at any level. stop telling us your stories you are not the case owners, we are the case owner . so stop telling us your stories to gain our sympathize. And how you asking for equality, I will come to your place and steal your house and then when we rise the case at the court I will ask them to divide your house for two halves between you and me, is this equal for you?”      –Commentator A from Facebook, retrieved from online article in 972 Magazine

Here it is again tonight. I can see and hear the “angry barking,” though the only thing in front of me is text from an online magazine on my laptop screen. From there, I take a big, deep sigh. The feeling of my pulse as the palms of my hands rest on my temples is pronounced enough at this point, that I as well hear the thumping. All of a sudden what is gray, separates to black and white. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is screaming at me once again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs and this is nothing against them! I use the word “barking” and in fact, “angry barking,” because that is what commentary becomes on the Internet when discussing controversial topics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or perhaps, it’s the oh-so-regular topics discussed by controversial people). Amazingly, the “angry barking” is about whether or not a group of Israelis should be allowed to join their Palestinian counterparts in attending a concert this week in Amman, Jordan of a well-known music ensemble from Beirut, Lebanon, in light of historical events/historical stories/historical hearsay. This sentiment, the rejection of developing “normal” relations with Israelis and recognizing the establishment of the State of Israel, is known as anti-normalization. Though I do not personally know the people involved in the “angry barking,” I hear in my mind the escalation of their oscillating timbres as they duke it out virtually with one another. This reality, coupled with the sound effects, is the mind-game we enter when involved, connected, or a part of this conflict. It is not beautiful. And yet this very experience, of only small stature of many that affect Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, Christians, concerned peoples, etc., leads to the question: how do we overcome from here and find what is beautiful in the not beautiful?

A month ago, I participated in an Expressive Arts Educators Course at the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Portland, Maine. Seeds of Peace, to simply cut and paste from their website, “inspires and equips new generations of leaders from regions of conflict with the relationships, understanding, and skills needed to advance lasting peace.” (Seeds of Peace) Though Seeds of Peace programming is usually for youth, their various educators’ courses are for leaders and educators who are involved with reconciliation activities at the grassroots level, producing curriculum for these programs, or administrators in the school systems. At the Expressive Arts Educators Course, 35 artists (from visual art and theatre to music and spoken word) and/or educators represented of eight countries came together for two weeks to undergo a deeper understanding of the power of the arts to transform conflict and empower youth. Besides instructional class time, we all were placed in “home-groups” to discuss topics and reflect within a smaller, intimate setting, underwent group physical activities, and prepared a performance for the end of the course that encompassed what was discovered in deepening our understanding of each others’ narratives through our various art forms.

While reading the two articles for class after the “angry barking” episode, I began to reflect further on my time at Seeds of Peace. An incredible amount of the lessons in both of these articles are exactly what the organizers of the course were trying to construct for us through creatively exploring, learning, and sharing our narratives within and through our art forms. All of the participants at the camp were adults of varying ages. Don’t let that trick you into thinking we all acted maturely and intelligently no matter the situation. There were tough times, including several verbal explosions between members of different ethnicities (Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus, the U.S., India, and Pakistan were all represented). Even one member left mid-camp in tears; the rest of the group in shock of loosing what they had thought was a safe space. What did our facilitators use to rebuild the safe space that was shattered and assist us all in finding the ways in which we were able to express ourselves again? They had us reconnect, deeper through art, opening the space wider for our “inner-kiddo,” similarly as to what Sheehy describes, to feel safe enough to appear and interact with “the other.” Also, the final performance served as a team-building activity where we took artistic risks together and possessed a responsibility to each other to succeed.

In essence, we had discovered a freedom of some sort. With our imaginations vivaciously leading the way to our creativity unrestricted, we became more than just our labels, not just to the joyous audience present, but perhaps most importantly to ourselves. It was beautiful! If anything, the line Maxine Greene quotes of Sartre “”at the heart of the aesthetic imperative we discern the moral imperative” because “the work of art, from whichever side you approach it” (1949, pp. 62-63) is an act of confidence in the freedom of human begins. We feel that freedom here—to interpret, to reflect, and (now and then) change our lives”” resonates with the successful outcome, artistically and communally, of the final performance (Greene & qtd. in Greene, 198). We had surpassed our “angry barking” episode leading to the possibility of a shared future. Like the quote of Emily Dickinson in Greene’s essay: “The Possible’s slow fuse is lit/ By the Imagination.” (Greene & qtd. in Greene, 198).

Within the thread of my camp reflection, I call to mind the various texts I’ve read as of late in preparation for the awesome event of graduate school. The writings of Paulo Freire jumped off the page for me, as well various others like John Paul Lederach’s The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. Now that I am here, I’ve read for another class several chapters of the Encyclopedia of Peace Education, which deconstructs all of the various terms and meanings in peace education, such as human rights education, global citizen education, structural violence, etc., and Galtung’s article on cultural violence.

Here is where I find myself at a current crossroad.

For as much as we may feel the essence of freedom through the exploration of art in all of its imagination and expressiveness, what about the structural violence on the outside which continues to keep the system afresh of top-dog in power marginalizing the underdog through lack of services and opportunities, fragmenting a population further beyond its repression of identity and culture? How do we encounter or counter this structural violence, which can be or lead to direct violence, through the arts and even more specifically, through music education? We at camp did surpass an ugly point through music and the arts in America, but what will happen now as we’ve returned to our respective countries with the “angry barking” of the media and the extremists? Can it last? Will we be able to expand upon what we learned from skills to our relationships with each other?

I leave you with these questions, which also I ask myself while searching for how to confront these issues, prepare curriculum and programming for the Israeli and Palestinian youth music non-profit Heartbeat, and keep updated on the events and issues in Israel/Palestine: What does it mean to sing about freedom and experience freedom through music, when beholden to structural violence and societal pressures like anti-normalization? What role can music education play in confronting structural violence? What do you think?

*Here’s a link to the music of Mashrou’ Leila, the music group performing in Amman, if you want to take a listen! (http://mashrou3leila.com/?album=el-hal-romancy)

I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

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References

1. Al-Bream, Ruba (2012, September 9). Jordanians for the Cultural Boycott of the Zionist Entity. [Msg 20]. Message posted to Facebook Page

2. Artificeofeternity. (2009, August 1). John Cage: “Mushroom Haiku” and “At the Middle” [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNzVQ8wRCB0

3. Bajaj, Monisha (Eds.). (2008). Encyclopedia of Peace Education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

4. Epstein, E. H. (1994). Comparative and International Education: Overview and Historical Development.In T. Husén & T. N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Education (2nded. pp. 918-923). New York: Pergamon.

5. joelyhberg. (2010, December 15). John Cage’s 4’33” [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTEFKFiXSx4

6. Seeds of Peace (www.seedsofpeace.org)

7. spncr525. (2009, May 11). John Cage- Water Walk [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63HoYXUeUTA

Bibliography

1.  Bajaj, Monisha (Eds.). (2008). Encyclopedia of Peace Education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

2. Galtung, Johan. (1990). Cultural Violence. Journal of Peace Research, 27 (3), 291-305. http://jpr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/27/3/291

3. Greene, M. (1978) Toward Wide-Awakeness: An Argument for the Arts and Humanities in Education, from Landscapes of Learning. New York: Teachers College Press., pp. 161-167

4. Epstein, E. H. (1994). Comparative and International Education: Overview and Historical Development.In T. Husén & T. N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Education (2nded. pp. 918-923). New York: Pergamon.

5. Sheehy, E. (1952) “Children and Sound” from There’s Music in Children. New York: Holt Publishing. 1-13