Mexican Culture - Mariana Murguía de Ferrer ©1999 Cantos Para Todos Volume VIII

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Mexican Culture:
Highlights for Bilingual Education in the U.S.

Practical Principles for Classroom Teachers


Roy E. Howard, Ph.D.
©1987 Cantos Para Todos

How can an artistic approach to music education be included in the elementary school curriculum when so many other content areas are given higher priority? Elementary classroom teachers are obligated by state and district policies to manage the learning experiences of large groups of children in a wide variety of subjects. The current federal administration is advocating a set of priorities and goals in education that does not stress the arts. The Secretary of Education outlined three priorities for american education through 1989 (Bell, 1984). These are, in order of priority, literacy, mathematics, and the preservation of the american system of government. He acknowledged that there should be room somewhere in the curriculum for physical education, athletics, vocational and technical instruction and the visual and performing arts; he also allows for driver training, home economics and other pursuits preparing individuals for jobs and parenthood. The federal policy is stated to be based on the principle of local control rather than mandate; however, the State of New Mexico has proposed to implement these priorities exactly as presented with Senate Bill 106. This bill relegates the arts, along with other 'minor' content areas, to a category called 'other., and severely limits the amount of time that 'other' subjects are allotted in the curriculum. Fortunately, studies show that teacher conviction and initiative has more impact on what happens in the classroom than policy (Howard, 1984). It would seem that a teacher would need to have a firm philosophy of the value of art and music education before being able to give it a priority in the classroom. This applies whether the classroom teacher or a specialist provide the actual instruction. The purpose of this paper is to help teachers find ways to develop such a philosophy and to implement or support an aesthetic curriculum in the classroom. The value of an aesthetic approach to the sciences as well as the arts is presented as a means towards developing artistic habits of learning that may help in the acquisition of the ability to appreciate music and the arts aesthetically.


There are many reasons stated in the literature for studying music. Reimer (1970) emphasizes the aesthetic values, but other authors also mention transfer of skills, alternative cognitive style of learning, and artistic modes for learning other subjects, including acculturation and multicultural values education. Music educators express many views about the purpose of music education including enjoyment, values development, civilization, and language expression. These philosophies take many forms in practice from having everyone sing a few songs, to the refined development of the 'talented'. An aesthetic approach to music education, as advocated in this paper, would be based on the concepts of the music content area (such as rhythm, scale, form, etc.), use musical works which are capable of being aesthetically perceived and aesthetically reacted to, and be taught with a method that focuses on aesthetic experiences (Reimer, 1970, p. 86). Using music in the teaching of other subjects is also advocated, as well as the aesthetic teaching of all subjects. However, such uses of music are not used as justification for the value of music education.
Aesthetic values are not exclusive to music appreciation, many subjects can be perceived and reacted to aesthetically. Effective music instruction may help prepare an individual to perceive many things in new ways. Phelan (1965) claims that students can adapt methods and principles, attitudes and behaviors learned in music class to other subjects such as language arts. Hanshumaker (1980) also reports that participation in music classes often has a positive influence on achievement in other classes. Such benefits of music education apparently exist; however, Serafin maintains that an emphasis on these external values is detrimental to the progress of music education. As long as we attempt to justify the arts by reference to non-aesthetic values, we are short changing our strongest argument, their enduring personal value to the individual. Music instruction should focus on the feelings that can be generated and knowledge of how the musical sounds do that. Student involvement in music should be active, productive, and stimulating.

The study of music in itself has great worth to the individual. Whether the benefit is explained by the 'right brain, left brain theory' (Wilson, 1985), or metaphysics (Witherspoon, 1977), philosophers agree: music is an important activity for human beings Plato felt that anyone who did not cultivate the soul through music and the arts was not fit to rule. Modern music-textbook writers emphasize the power of music as an art and provide experiences to develop the students' cognition for life-long learning (Boardman and Andress, 1981 and Crook, et al, 1981). All students in all grades should have the opportunity for growth in musical skills, they say. Musical concepts and behaviors should be taught to all the students because they can enhance the quality of life for all the students.

'The Music Book (Boardman and Andress, 1981) is designed to help the student gain experience in using different cognitive skills that will assist in the generative learning process:

to develop recall and translative skills the student is guided to label, list, imitate, define

to develop analytic skills, the student is guided to compare, describe, discriminate, categorize

to develop synthesizing skills, the student is guided to create, seek alternatives, use divergent thinking

to develop evaluative skills, the student is guided to use other cognitive skills as a basis for acceptance, rejection or correction.

The ultimate objective of The Music Book is to provide young people with musical understanding, cognitive skills, broad experience with many kinds of music, and involvement in many kinds of musical activities in order that they may make their own value judgements regarding musical choices, career choices, involvement in and out of school music activities and the support of music in their community.'

'The major goal of Silver Burdett Music (Crook, et al, 1981) as stated in the philosophy is to increase the sensitivity of all children to the power of music as an art. This goal is fulfilled throught the accomplishment of objectives stated in terms of seven behaviors: Ends: perceiving and reacting; Means: producing, conceptualizing, analyzing, evaluating; Outcome: valuing.' Learning various styles of music leads to the development of musical flexibility involving cognitive, psychomotor and affective areas. This flexibility then makes it possible for one to perform and listen to additional new music with increased perceptiveness and ease. As a side benefit of this phenomenon, some claim that multicultural musical experiences may help alter attitudes toward diversity and increased acceptance of differences in ethnic traditions in the nation (Anderson, 1983). Music is a multicultural education. Music is a universal medium of expression for the deepest feelings and aspirations that belong to all humanity. Musical experience extends the means of expression, the vocabulary, the appreciation of diversity and similarity, the ability to participate with a group, an appreciation for the interelatedness of the arts, intellectual stimulus, tolerance and respect (Dodds, 1983). Palmer (1987) notes that 'hybridization', the patching together of the old and the new and the exotic styles of music, has become a popular source of cultural energy for many musicians. Speaking of the value of various cultural perspectives, Beltran says that education should preserve the dignity of the individual and the learning of the (various) cultures in order to integrate them into the national society as values that enrich it, not as products of a fallen and inferior people (Beltran, 1983). Langer (1971, p. 93) and Obrien (1986) suggest that music has the power to influence culture and taste. Such side benefits may come even stronger when the focus is on the musical concepts. While one side benefit of musical training may be the acceptance and understanding of other cultures, the strongest congnitive value of music study is 'self-knowledge, insight into all phases of life and mind, springing forth from artistic imagination' (Langer, 1971).

'Art is the process of intelligence by which humans turn creative products into statements of their condition. It offers the means for individuals to conceptualize ideas and render them comprehensible. It is an important carrier of civilization and serves as an antenna capable of guiding individuals and keeping them in touch with the undercurrents of their times' (Lewis, 1977, p. 397).

Classroom teachers should not feel that the variety of philosophies in music education are out of their reach. They can be summarized into two camps and a compromise can be reached. On the one hand, there are those who see music as a means to other ends. On the other, music is seen as valuable in itself, that we can learn to appreciate and react to the sounds alone. Teachers with an intelligently developed personal philosophy of music can benefit from the work done in both camps. Teachers can use music (and the values they learn from the arts) to create aesthetically rewarding experiences in any content area. Teachers must also learn to lead students to increased understanding of music as an art of infinite value to people, a way to foster the highest values of humanity.


How can a regular classroom teacher gain the knowledge and preparation that will lead to an aesthetic philosophy of music education? Such training is often lacking even in the preparation of music teachers. In discussing the issues of music teacher and college music education professor training, Meske (1987) mentions the need for general knowledge, humanities, sciences, music content, teaching skills and applied teaching methods. She speaks of the vicious circle tn education methods: that one tends to teach as he was taught, not as he was taught to teach. She sees as a solution to this, more methods courses for PhD candidates in music education, but does not mention instruction in the philosophy of education, even at that level. In her own teacher training manual (Bergethon and Boardman, 1970), she addresses an aesthetic philosophy when she states as the purpose of music education: 'to help children discover, understand and enjoy music as an art and as a means of self-expression'. In her elementary music text-book (Boardaan and Andress, 1981), her stated purposes include reference to nonitusical outcomes: 'that they may make their own value judgments regarding musical choices, career choices, involvement in and out of school music activities and the support of music in their community'. Her own writings suggest the importance of developing a philosophy of music education, but she does not show how teachers may be encouraged to develop one. A course of studies that does not specifically address philosophy development may not lead to the convictions needed to implement a music curriculum. Howard (1987) shows that courses in content and methods are not sufficient to motivate teachers to take initiatives in a subject that is given low status in the curriculum. Teacher training for music teachers as well as classroom teachers should include courses that provide a foundation of information upon which to build an aesthetic music education philosophy and many positive experiences with successful, exemplary aesthetic education.

The NBC Task Force on Music Teacher Education for the Nineties (Dean, 1987), does suggest ways that teachers can develop and defend their own philosophy of music education. They advocate teacher growth and independence towards personal intrinsic motivation active leadership by teachers in developing educational policies affecting music education in their schools and states, and that each should reaffirm his own committment to music education. Classroom teachers should seek opportunities to discuss and influence music education policies.

The Betty Center for Education in the Arts recently sponsored their 'First National Conference: Discipline-based Art Education: What Forms Will it Take?' (Michaelson, 1987). National Endowment for the Arts chairman Frank Hodsoll urged a 'broad national coalition to make serious and sequential arts education part of basic education reform. Our young people deserve to have their eyes, ears and minds opened to civilization...they deserve to know about art.' This and other similar efforts by organized groups may help bring the issue of aesthetic education to the attention of teachers. Classroom teachers as well as arts educators should take advantage of any opportunity to interact with the information to be shared by such efforts. Classroom teachers can seek opportunities to learn skills, knowledge and experience in music and aesthetics that can lead to a philosophy. Such an aesthetic philosophy held by teachers can sustain their efforts to provide opportunities for student aesthetic experiences.


In the Betty Center conference, U.S. Secretary of Education, William Bennett, was quoted as saying, 'the study of the arts is just as essential to the education of a disadvantaged child as it is for any other' (Nichaelson, 1987). In the conference, both Chairman Hodsoll and Secretary Bennett praised the Japanese educational system, which requires two class periods per week each in music and art and handicrafts in grades 1-6 (6 hours of arts per week). Two more courses per week are required each in music and fine arts in grades 7-8 and one course per week in each of these in grade 9. In contrast, the New Mexico State Legislature, S.D. 106, (1986) has eliminated the fine arts/practical arts requirement from high school and reduced the suggested time for 'other subjects' in the lower grades to a degree that may result in only one hour per week for music in grades 1-3 and only one hour per month in grades 1-6.:

Other: Art, music, P.E. health, computer
grade 1,2 - 1 hour per day
grade 3 - 11/2 hours per day
grades 4, 5, 6 - 1 hour per week

Ernest L. Boyer, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching said, 'The arts are not a frill, they are an essential part of language. They help children express feelings, they learn a visual language. We live in a dangerous, interdependent world. Today's students need to learn not just the language of politics and propaganda, they also need to learn languages that transcend intellectual and ideological barriers' (Michaelson, 1987). 'What discursive symbolism -language in its literal use - does for our awareness of things about us and our own relation to them, the arts do for our awareness of subjective reality, feeling, and emotion; they give form to iward -experiences and thus make them conceivable' (Langer, 1971). This broad view of arts education does not seem to be the driving philosophy of lawmaking in New Mexico as shown by its policies. Classroom teachers must resolve such differences for themselves with regard to the teaching of music and 'other -subjects' not given a priority by the system. The way a classroom teacher presents music instruction or reacts to the itinerant music teacher may have a greater impact on the students' attitude than any stated school policy.

The manifestation of a deep and sustaining philosophy of music education is demonstrated in various ways by music educators. I know a music teacher who long ago retired from school teaching. Now she attends conferences, takes classes, actively participates in the state and national Music Teachers Association and constantly strives to upgrade her own skills in support of her many and growing numbers of private piano students. I know another, fed up with the system and the frustration he has had in striving for excellence in his students and his productions, now satisfies his thirst for music by playing chamber music with a few friends. Both believe in the value of the classics and the striving for perfection, yet manifest that interest in contrasting, yet productive, behaviors. Many other educators are satisfied with their students having enjoyment with a cursory exposure to a variety of styles and only gentle efforts at performance. Some teachers are able to strike that essential balance and instruct students in musical concepts that help them have significant, memorable experiences with sound in creative school experiences. Classroom teachers must not be discouraged by their own or their students' lack of performing skills. Music can be perceived by an individual at a higher level than his ability to produce it. There are many ways to involve students in musically satisfying experiences. Teachers should experiment with ways that might work with their combination of personal interest and student response.

'The kind of change that will make a difference in schools will not come with better theories or with better materials or even with better informed teachers, but only with individuals taking action towards change. The problem of changing instruction in the long run, is a political question' (Smith, -1982). Change can only occur at the grass roots level through the efforts of individual teachers who, one step at a time, improve their own art of teaching and are able to inspire the students, one child at a time, to see the beauty in knowledge, the insight of listening, the joy of creation. A holistic view of all the content areas and their relation to a student's personal experience may be the best way to make schooling relevant and exciting (Smith, 1982). Music instruction that is holistic and aesthetic may help teachers and students attain perspectives that are valuable in all the curriculum.


As we drove home from church one Sunday, my wife suddenly asked me to stop the car. She saw through the shading of her dark glasses, a colorful light refraction in the crisp clouds of the winter sky. She passed the glasses around, allowing all to share in the moment, made more distinct and intense by the dark glasses. After all had been made aware of the colors, they were more easily perceived without the glasses. When we got home, my 14 year old son searched for and found a photograph of the same celestial phenomenon that he had taken on a scout trip.

Late that evening my mother-in-law called to tell my wife to run outside and look at the moon. A bright white moon shone directly overhead through high, icy clouds. The moon appeared in the center of a large, round clearness, surrounded by a halo of shimmering clouds, rung on their inner edge by a particular brightness. My wife called her blind friend and described the scene to her. She told her son who ran out to see it. He came back in begging for the phone so he could tell his friend to look at the 'ring around the moon.

The next morning I was in the car with my teenaged daughter before sunrise. I pointed towards the thin, bright red clouds near the dark mountains behind which the yellows of a new day were changing to blue. I asked her if she ever noticed and appreciated the beauties of the sky. She said that she did notice beauty in such scenes, and upon my questioning revealed that the beauty was not tied to any external meaning, such as 'red means mad', or 'red means happy'. She admitted that she did not need to understand the words of the Spanish language song playing on the radio at that time in order to find some enjoyment of the musical experience. When we arrived home, my wife said that she had seen the sunrise too, and enjoyed it. I asked her if she got that same enjoyment from other things. She said she felt the same way when she holds a baby or looks at a work of art, or listens to certain types of music. Certainly, the classical music that I listen to does not give my wife or my fifteen year old daughter those feelings, but why could it not? An effective aesthetic teacher may strive to expand the ability of the students to find beauty and enjoyment in many media and contexts.

Reimer (1970, p. 39) observes that art makes the
'subjective realm of human responsiveness objective by capturing and presenting in its aesthetic qualities the patterns and forms of human feelingfulness. Aesthetic education is the education of feeling. Aesthetic education should have as its deepest value the enrichment of the quality of people's lives through enriching their insights into the nature of human feelings.

My family members are learning to be sensitive to many types of potentially aesthetic experiences. They are learning to find beauty and enjoyment in a variety of media and circumstances. The next step, I suppose, would be to find ways to open even more doors to quality of life for them by making them increasingly sensitive to those things they know how to enjoy and finding ways that they can enjoy even more media in more cultural contexts. The goals of education should be to enable individuals to enjoy ever widening circles of understanding, acceptance and the enjoyment of an enriched quality of life. These values can and should be taught in the elementary classroom. Adler (1982) suggests that such values may be acquired slowly by children, but that they should be schooled in the foundations and prepared for a lifetime of self-education. Teachers should watch for (or create) opportunities that include a potentially aesthetic experience and the proper attitude of the students. As teachers reinforce such values and experiences with the students, their ability to perceive and react to them may increase.

'Art can satisfy a felt need for activities that confirm people as individuals. It provides opportunities to deal with feelings and emotions, where individuals can place their experiences into value relationships and where necessary feelings of importance and uniqueness can be sustained' (Lewis, 1977, p. 397).


Reimer explains that there are various contrasting ways to look at the value of the arts. The perspectives known as referential, and absolute expressionist will be contrasted as possible approaches that may be used by elementary teachers. The 'absolute formalist' view which he presents as an intellectual satisfaction with art, and other possible reactions to music, will not be discussed here.

The 'referentialist' emphasizes the value of artistic expression as a symbol or sign of extramusical idea such as emotions, social order, attitudes, events, objects, etc. Music, to the referential ist, is a 'language' that contains rules and symbols with specific objective meaning. This philosophy is exemplified by Socialist Realism in which the function of art is to further the cause of the state by influencing attitudes toward social problems and by influencing people to meet the needs of the state. Tolstoy believes that art should transmit the emotion intended by the artist to the receiver of the art in the most direct and powerful way.

This referent philosophy is alive and well today. Ehle (1987) believes that the tones of music express ideas and emotions of the age such as order, diligence, piety, social structure (Baroque), pleasure (Classical), social freedoms and the quest for them (Romantic)1 despair, neurosis, insanity, psychosis, anti-social behavior, intellectual isolation, terror, exhaustion (20th Century music). 'The artist sees the world more keenly than the rest of us and reveals the reality of the world to us'. Ehle advocates the use of art and music as a means to influence a better world. He envisions the composers creating a static, non-controversial, pleasant music in diatonic quartilism and the Phrygian and Locrian modes, because they are the least aggressive. He advocates that composers diminish rhythm, because it relates to adrenalin and aggressiveness.

In contrast, Suzanne Langer (1958) seems to agree with the 'absolute expressionist' ideas of Reimer. Music and the arts can influence culture and civilization, but in a very different way than claimed by Tolstoy and EhIe. What language does to help us categorize and understand objective reality, the arts do for our awareness and understanding of subjective reality, feeling and emotion. The arts' cognitive value is an insight into all phases of life and mind, a self-knowledge through imagination. Artists of a culture have common 'styles of feeling', rather than 'common ideas'. Art promotes the advance of culture because the artists not only react to but also influence the ways of feeling during an age - feeling, rather than social idealsa Art stabilizes the advance of culture by helping the citizens attain a wholistic or subjective appreciation of nature rather than a quantification and control of it.


Lewis (1977, p. 393) explains that art has historically been used in this country for the (referential) purposes of defining class distinction and role. A referentially artistic approach to social studies in the classroom can give students insights into the political and social climate of an age. Such benefits of an artistic approach, integrated with other subjects, should be one of the teaching strategies available to classroom teachers.

Adler (1982) insists that training for jobs is not a sufficient role for the schools. We should be educating for the duties of self-governing citizenship and for the enjoyment of things of the mind and spirit that are essential to a good human life. The values of 'absolute expressionism' may be useful in preparing individuals for that type of enjoyment. Bezi and Myers (1968) give seven suggestions to teachers who wish to foster creativity in the students. (1) The teacher must value creativity and behave creatively. The importance of the teacher valuing and modelling aesthetic behaviors is essential to student acquisition of these values. (2) Establishing a classroom environment supportive of creativity is vital. Taylor's (1977) work in 'educational aesthetics' shows that a conception of the learning and teaching environments as a single system can promote aesthetic, interactive learning styles. (3) The teacher should strive to present different ideas and help students view things from different perspectives. The key element in the ability to react aethetically is perception. The ability to accept diversity and ambiguity and to seek different ways of viewing and solving problems can aid this process. (4) The teacher and students should continuously analyze and evaluate the process and the products of the creative act. Such an analytical involvement in the processes of creation may highten their ability to perceive and react aesthetically and may influence them to create aesthetically. (5) Self confidence must be nurtured. The process of aesthetic and creative involvement requires risk taking. (6) Creative and aesthetic behaviors should be rewarded in the classroom. The art of teaching requires skillful balance between the encouragement of innovative efforts and reminders to conform to basic societal conventions.

Cataldo (1977) suggests that aesthetic and holistic paradigms may be developed for the sciences as well as the arts. He contends that science must be aware of the societal contexts in which -phenomena occur. He claims that scientists and designers use the same mental processes and operations to reach conclusions: perception, observation, imagination, impulse and drive, descriptive research, intuition, probability and predictability. The kind of phenomena, not the analytical process itself,
is how scientists and artists traditionally differ in approach. He advocates that all society might benefit if scientists learned from the artists to see the world as a holistic, global ecological system rather than a segmented, marketable commodity. In many traditional cultures, the chief scientists are the artists. For example, song and art are combined by the Native American medicine men to bring the sick into harmony with the environment and thus to heal them. Teachers may well encourage holistic balance along with skills development in the sciences.

Music education can have a powerful influence on personal development and long term happiness. Classroom teachers who are developing a personal philosophy of aesthetic music education can do much to support the music program of the school. They can encourage students to perceive and respond with deep feeling to musical and other artistic phenomena. They can model an aesthetic response to music, art, and nature. They can teach an aesthetic and holistic point of view of science and the world. They can use high quality music and other arts in support of the other content areas. They can be a positive influence in aesthetic policy making. They can insure that the students in their own classroom receive high quality education through their own efforts.


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