As the summer winds down to a close, I am looking forward to another school year. Year number 15 to be exact (whhhaaaaatttt????). This year I do not have to write any new curriculum, but will be refining and accommodating as needed. However, what is more important to me than curriculum (again....whhhhaaattttt????) are the discussions that we will be having in class. No doubt, our country is at a pretty tough spot right now. The summer started out rough with the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting of Philando Castile. This verdict came out two days after school was let out. I was pained by the fact that I could not connect with students through music, to allow their frustrations and anger to be heard through music. Minneapolis has recently seen verdicts that favor police officers over their young male, black victims. Jamar Clark was an unarmed young black male who was shot and killed by police in 2015 and the police officer was acquitted in 2016. It is tough times to be a young black man in this country. Has it ever been easy? Side note: did you know that during the '50s and '60s many black jazz musicians converted to Islam because, at the time, it was easier to be a Muslim than to be a black man? WTF?
We now have a president (#notmypresident) who does not acknowledge the hate groups that have caused pain, suffering, death, and further division of our country. Additionally, #45 continues to spew hurtful stereotypes of immigrants, specifically latinos/as and Muslims. Generalizations are dangerous and only lead to fear, which is what #45 feeds on. The students, and their families, with whom I work could be further representations from these stereotypes. These are beautiful children, young adults, are just trying to live a life of freedom, something we proclaim as a basic value in our country.
So, what do we do? I'm a white lady who has lived a pretty privileged life. I went to a relatively white school, both of my parents supported me and they are still married. I had opportunities to education, private music lessons, and never had to question my place in society. What is my role in all of this? My role IS this. It is time to #riseup and fight the fight.
How do we do this in education? Some might argue that politics have no place in education. I respectfully disagree. Education IS political. What is we say, or even more importantly, what we CHOOSE to NOT say, can have a lasting impact on students, the people we work with, and the community at large. I'm not saying that you have to go into a classroom and announce your dislike for #45 (but go ahead if you feel so inclined....that is really up to the school climate), but you CAN engage your students in thoughtful conversations and musicking that will stimulate conversations to encourage different viewpoints. This is healthy. This is democracy. LISTENING to each other and engaging beyond 140 characters is important.
These conversations are not limited to "core" classes like civics classes or language arts classes. Music classes have a HUGE potential to be a place where students can converse about current issues. What has the role of music been in society during turbulent times? In what ways have artists used their voices, or instruments, or creative compositions, to speak out against injustice? What songs that were written during the Civil Rights movement are still applicable to today? What artists today are using their music to speak out against injustice? Two that come to mind are A Tribe Called Quest and their in your face "We the People" and basically anything by Kendrick Lamar, but most recently his 2015 album "To Pimp a Butterfly" and his 2017 release "DAMN". Some of the material in these songs will be offensive. The language is harsh and real. But in this day in age, I find these less offensive than what #45 stands for.
There are a lot of websites out there for educators to help them facilitate these tough discussions in class. I would encourage you, educator or not, to look through these websites and consider how you might be able to inform yourself, which will give you the confidence to have these discussions. Let me be clear. These are NOT easy conversations to have. It will take thought and time from you. You may have some upset and frustrated students. However, it is really important. I would encourage you to not just do a one-stop-shop lesson, but rather embed these conversations and activities into your curriculum. Healing from words takes time. It can take months. We need to be there for students. We need to show them that there are adults out there who care for them. We need to show them that adults can be civil towards one another, and that we do listen. How will you #riseup this year?
Cult of Pedagogy
Teaching for Change
Teaching Social Justice in the Music Classroom (article)
The Oxford Handbook of Social Justice in Music Education an incredibly important book. Expensive, so perhaps a professional development purchase.
What other sites am I missing? Please join in the conversation! And remember, use your voice. We do have the power, use it to your advantage.