This week was hard, in a lot of ways. The world is so full of truly awful things and it feels as if there's nothing substantial a single individual can do against that onslaught. What I'm learning is that we all have to find our little world-improving patch of ground and hope that others do the same, and teaching is proving to be at least part of my little patch of ground.
After 8 weeks of a Music and World Cultures class several of my kids turned in an assignment using pejorative, evaluative terms about a culture they "othered." What I've discovered this week is that my teaching priorities are threefold:
- Introduce my students to the music I love, and the music I don't love so much, because I truly believe in the power and beauty of music as a vehicle for positive change in the world.
- Advocate tolerance of difference through the study of music and culture, because kids need to learn that different [sound] doesn't automatically mean bad, or ugly.
- To help kids identify how their media is framed, and to break frames I find particularly destructive, because everything is spun and people need to realize the difference between spin and data.
How does that apply to this week in teaching?
I broke some damn frames. Particularly the Self/Other frame.
In case of emergency: BREAK FRAMES
- Ask students why we study music and culture (or why we study at all in the age of The Google).
- Tell students that knowledge/data/media is mediated through frameworks (very often in an entirely subversive way)
- Identify a major framework as the self/other dichotomy, particularly the notion of defining ourselves and our culture by what we're not
- Self: White American Middle-Class Straight Christian Male
- Other: Minority African Lower-Class LGBT Islamic Female
- Identify the evaluative terms that cause a positive gut-reaction often associated with Self: Cultured, Educated, Hard-Working, Pure, Moral, Civilized
- Identify the evaluative terms that cause a negative gut-reaction often associated with Other: Lazy, Immoral, Feminine, Dirty, Uneducated, Classless, Primitive, Hypersexual
- Show how these terms are used to describe certain groups of people, even though these evaluative terms have NOTHING to do with the actuality of the people represented: African/Primitive, Lower-class/Lazy, American/Moral, Islamic/Uneducated, LGBT/Hypersexual, etc.
- Ask again, why do we study?
- We study to break the frame (erase self/other and evaluative terms, leaving only people).
- Empower your students to question their frames.
Peace, Love, and Tunes,