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The Place of Music

Philosophies of education

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#1 Aquarelle

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 09:28

Last Friday a teacher in France was murdered. He has been decribed in the British press as a history teacher but that is not quite accurate.  Here history,  geography and civics are taught as an amalgum of subjects. The particular lesson he was giving to a class of 13 to 14 year olds was in the context of the civics module and the subject was freedom of expression. He was not teaching outside the syllabus and he gave students who did not wish to see the cartoons he had brought as support the opportunity not to see them.

 

The ways in which different countries deal with the difficult and delicate questions, particularly in the field of the philosoply of education. For complex historical reasons the French have chosen to deal with these problems by what is known here as « laicité. » I think the nearest term to that in English is « secularity .» The idea is that school is a place where  every one puts aside their religious beliefs and takes part in a common curriculum aimed at teaching the younger generation about citizenship. In other words there is a secular and neutral umbrella over all differences and children are taught about a wide variety of ways at looking at the world, in the hope that as adults they will be equipped to use this knowledge. Everyone has the right to decide for themselves what religion or philosoply will be the basis for their way of life. This decision can only be based on a wide educational experience and not on any form of obscurantism.

 

Over the past 20 years there has been an increasing amount of interference in the school syllabus by parents and activists who have their own axe to grind. In order not to cause uncomfortable waves of indignation and not to have to assume their responsiblitites the  educational heirachy has not supported teachers who have found themselves unable to teach certain parts of the syllabus because of the active resistance of pupils and parents. In the classroom teachers are in difficulty with history,  general science, biology, physical education, art and music. Some teachers have been hassled and some have even received death threats . So far, when asking their superiors for help they have been told to be quiet, to self censor and to go away. Anything to avoid controversy and to have a quiet life. This is now likely to change.

 

I watched the hommage to Samuel Paty at the Sorbonne yesterday. I found it very moving. Hence my post. My personnal conclusion is that as a teacher of music it is my duty to put in front of the children and young people   I teach the positive aspects of the arts, and in particular of music. It is not up to me to tell them what to think or what to believe. But it  is up to me to teach them  to think and to give them the tools with which to reason. The humanities, of which music is a large  part should be taught to all children. The wider their base of knowledge the more freedom they will have.

 

If you say prayers may I ask you to remember Samuel Paty’s family  and in particular the five year old little boy who will never see his father again. If you do not say prayers  may I ask you to think of this family with compassion. I think we should also not forget the two young boys who helped the murderer to recognise the teacher as he left the school. If they knew what they were doing then we must hope that they will learn differently. If they didn’t fully understand the consequences of their action then they will need help to learn to live with that.

 

Each of us has our particular philosophy of musical education. I find myself having once more to remember that in a very small way I am responsible for bringing  musical beauty beauty into the lives of children and trusting that it will  do its humanising work. I just think that is what it’s all about.


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#2 Hildegard

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 09:34

Thank you for that, Aquarelle. I think many of us from all around the world were shocked and horrified by what happened to that teacher, and have admired the dignified ways in which the French authorities have responded to the tragedy.


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#3 Bagpuss

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 10:40

I second that....

Bag x


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#4 ten left thumbs

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 11:15

Thankyou, Aquarelle, for explaining this to us so eloquently. It has been a difficult incident to understand. 

 

My thoughts are with the Paty family. 


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#5 ejw21

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 15:10

Thanks, Aquarelle, this is very useful and so well written. I did try watching some France24 news but my French listening skills are a bit rusty... 


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#6 Minstrel

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 22:03

Beautifully and thoughtfully written, Aquarelle.
This world needs more people like you.
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#7 jenny

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 09:34

Beautifully and thoughtfully written, Aquarelle.
This world needs more people like you.

 

You've echoed my thoughts, Minstrel. Thank you so much, Aquarelle.


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#8 maggiemay

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 14:52

 

Beautifully and thoughtfully written, Aquarelle.
This world needs more people like you.

 

You've echoed my thoughts, Minstrel. Thank you so much, Aquarelle.

 

Mine too - thank you Aquarelle. 

Prayers for the family - and for the school too. 


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#9 Aquarelle

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 15:55

Beautifully and thoughtfully written, Aquarelle.
This world needs more people like you.

No Minstrel, it's a kind thought -  but what the world really needs is more people like us - like all the caring teachers on this forum  who week after week see their pupils and know that what we are trying to give them is a great deal more than  just crotchets and quavers and scales (though I have to admit I do give them rather a lot of that sort of stuff on the way  :)! ) But it is what we are on the way to that counts. And alongside us we have teachers of other arts and of the sciences and that is what we are there for - to open our pupils' eyes and give them the signposts that will help to enrich  their lives - just as an older generation of teachers have done  for us. We are all in this together.


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#10 elemimele

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 22:32

... just a thought, too, but one of the most eye-opening moments for a child is to realise that teachers are humans and do Other Things than what they teach: that their chemistry teacher is rather good at painting flowers, or that their history teacher sings slightly lewd comic songs, or that their French teacher has a subversive but kind sense of humour. Teachers are role-models. Everywhere they tread, they leave ideas, thoughts, and kids with new vistas to explore.

Aquarelle, thank you for reminding us of this awful thing, and of the questions that France faces, and that we also should take care to think about, to understand. It is also important, I think, to remember that terrorists are just criminals, nothing more. They are not heroes, freedom fighters; they stand for no values; when they kill for religious reasons, they usually disgust most members of their religion. They are simply bad. They do not deserve any special title or treatment, merely the normal legal process reserved for the criminal, the dull and dreary process of realisation that what they did was futile, and that now they will sit, with futility, forgotten, behind bars, for a very long time - and no one will think of them. There are many legal and correct ways to put a point of view; threats and violence have no place. There is something very sad that a person can think it right to kill - the most extreme way to demand to be heard - when they are killing to stifle a person who is teaching the right of everyone to speak for what they think should be heard. It is very sad that France's secular society, a philosophy intended to allow ever man, woman and child to follow their own beliefs without interference, should be attacked by someone whose right to follow their own faith is actually protected by the very philosophy they attack. I'm sorry, I'm finding it difficult to put this bad logic into words. I have great respect for French secularism. This is such a sad, sad event, at every level from the people, his family, up to the whole republic.


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#11 ma non troppo

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Posted 24 October 2020 - 07:03

A great post Aquarelle, and I really admire the ethos behind "laicite" now you have explained it so very well. It really is what education should be in every country in my view.
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#12 Aquarelle

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Posted 01 November 2020 - 10:42

As an "intervenant" and a self employed person I am allowed  during lockdown to go into the school where I intervene. Tomorrow morning all schools in France will pay hommage to Samuel Paty, the teacher murdered for giving a civics lesson on the freedom of speech. In my school the hommage will be simple as it is a junior school.  There will be a time of preparation in class.The famous letter of Jean Jaures will be read and there will be a minute of silence. I have offered to provide a moment of music during which the children will be asked to listen and to reflect. I wanted something beautiful, calm and without words. I have chosen the slow movement of Mozart's piano  Concerto No 21. The whole of the movement is too long  for the whole school to listen to, though I think some of the older juniors may well ask to hear it again in class on Friday and will probably manage all of it.  So tomorrow  I will fade it out at a suitable moment. I hope this beautiful music will help.


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#13 Doodle

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Posted 01 November 2020 - 13:08

Aquarelle,

Thank you so much for this whole thread - clearly explained in the first post and your thoughts expressed so beautifully throughout the rest.  The Mozart sounds a perfect choice for such a moment.  The school and your pupils are lucky to have you x


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#14 Cyrilla

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Posted 01 November 2020 - 22:13

^^^What Doodle said^^^

 

:wub:


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#15 Aquarelle

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Posted 02 November 2020 - 14:39

Thank you Doodle and Cyrilla. I'm afraid it didn't go quite as well as I had hoped. I got to school to find my colleagues overwhelmed by what they had been asked to do at such short notice. Originally we had been told that schools would not open until 10h00, thus giving teachers the time to meet and plan the hommage and put the new sanitary protocol in place. That information came  late on Friday - when we were still officially on holiday. It was then cancelled and we were told that school was to start at 0900  as usual and the hommage to be organised with the minute of silence at 11.00. I had felt right from the start that this was asking too much, particularly of primary schools where mask wearing for all children from the age of 6 had to be put in place, worried parents reassured  and the hommage prepared - all that between 0900 and 1045. The murder of Samuel Paty took place on the last day of term so none of us were quite sure exactly what the primary age range would know about it. We didn't know if parents had protected them from the news or dscussed it with them or what attitudes they might have taken.. In any case I felt, as did others, that it was inapprpriate for the nursery classes to be present at the hommage.

 

I expected a shortened and simplified version of Jean Jaurès' letter would be read in primary schools. I had seen a suggested extract for this age group on the net but it wasn't simplified and was much too difficult for juniors. I had also seen on television that some teachers had gone on strike because they felt that this hurried and shoddily prepared event was no decent hommage to their dead colleague. Anyway we gathered the whole school in the préau - no hope of social distancing. The head teacher briefly explained why we were there and then the three teachers took turns to read the text. The children obviously didn't understand a word of it.. They were remarkably well behaved during the minute of silence. Then I spoke very briefly about the importance in difficult times of things like poetry and  painting and music and I prepared them for what they would hear,  explaining why I had chosen this music and asking them to pay special attention to the moment when the piano joins the orchestra.  I also said I would bring the CD on Friday in case any one wanted to hear it again.They listened quietly and I watched their reactions, Some were simply not there, some were slightly involved, but there were some in the older class who were  well tuned in and I was grateful for the listening we have done over the past few lessons (Peter and the Wolf - you may remember) which has taught them a bit about how to listen. Then we said the Lord's Prayer and the children went off for a belated play time.

 

it wasn't a total disaster but if we had had more time and more guidance it would have been so much better. I will have to wait until Friday to see if any of the children have anything to say to me about it.


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