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Values and Music Education

PDF Values and Music Education © 2021 by Estelle R. Jorgensen

Book author
  1. Estelle R. Jorgensen
Values and Music Education

What values should form the foundation of music education? And once we decide on those values, how do we ensure we are acting on them?

In Values and Music Education, esteemed author Estelle R. Jorgensen explores how values apply to the practice of music education. We may declare values, but they can be hard to see in action. Jorgensen examines nine quartets of related values and offers readers a roadmap for thinking constructively and critically about the values they hold. In doing so, she takes a broad view of both music and education while drawing on a wide sweep of multidisciplinary literature. Not only does Jorgensen demonstrate an analytical and dialectical philosophical approach to examining values, but she also seeks to show how theoretical and practical issues are interconnected.

An important addition to the field of music education, Values and Music Education highlights values that have been forgotten or marginalized, underscores those that seem perennial, and illustrates how values can be double-edged swords.


For much of my working lifetime, I have been in search of meaning at the intersections of music and education. Working within an analytic philosophical tradition, I have sought to understand the meanings of concepts invoked in music education. Excavating beneath the surface of commonly used words and concepts employed in music and education, I have attempted to clarify their meanings, reveal their ambiguities, critique their potentials and pitfalls, and unpack their implications for musical and educational theory and practice. Thinking literally and figuratively, individually and comparatively, critically and constructively, I have embraced the tensions, paradoxes, predicaments, and questions that my method raises. My approach to philosophy reflects the way I see the world and is born as much from my musical and teaching experience as my study of the philosophies of others. In seeking to clarify the conceptual terrain of music education, I have articulated and distinguished ideas, probed their foundations, and practiced a way of reflecting about music and education that I hope others may find helpful. I am conscious of moving outward to the limits of my knowledge while also seeking a fuller and deeper understanding of my sometimes takenfor-granted ideas. My work is organic: each project is incomplete, grounded in questions arising out of my previous writing and generating new questions that demand my attention.

Boldness of philosophical vision means the courage to pursue a line of thought wherever it leads and irrespective of current fashion or circumstances: it not only stands for staking out and embracing the new; it also requires interrogating and confirming the old. I think of my writing as an extended thought experiment influenced to some degree by others’ perspectives but primarily following my own questions and creating my own path. In the process, in the way of dialectic, I am caught between the claims of new and old. Having embraced questions, ambiguities, and paradoxes, I hold this position even if it renders my ideas vulnerable to critique by those who, on the one hand, wish me to take up the mantle of transformation and change or those, on the other, who would prefer that I repudiate the new in favor of conservation and tradition. Taking such a fraught position requires courage, but it is the way I must travel.

I underscore the personal character of this writing. For me, doing philosophy is a solitary undertaking, but I treasure the philosophical friends with whom I can converse. Although I have prioritized the tasks of better understanding and articulating my ideas within the philosophical tradition to which I am heir and thereby speaking in my own voice, I have also fostered a community in which philosophers of music education might forward their ideas and be respectfully heard. In searching for conceptual clarity and distinction, this book begins and ends with my own perspectives and commitments. The text was written before the notes that serve a pedagogical purpose in clarifying either a source of my ideas or an illustrative function in suggesting literature that others may wish to explore. This project afforded me the creativity to discover the conceptual scaffolding on which I might hang my analysis, apply it systematically throughout this book, and determine the specific aspects about which I needed to write. In his review of this book, Randall Allsup pictures me inspecting tarot cards and turning them over one by one. He is right that I am searching for meaning regarding these values and reflecting on their salience for music education. I view all the values about which I write as consequential not only for the past but for the future. Imagination and reason are at work in determining what to do about them. Still, I do not see myself as a prophet, magician, or seer delivering wisdom from on high but rather as an investigator who seeks to reflect on the intersections between values, music, and education and share what I have found. I simply bring my perspective to a philosophical, musical, and educational conversation already underway.

If there is one overarching theme in this book, it is that when we speak of values that impact our commitments and actions, the meanings we ascribe to those words are consequential for thought and action. Juxtaposing, as I have, quartets of values that are intertwined in various ways exposes the ambiguity of these words and clarifies how the nuances of meaning in each value may differ depending on its conjunction with others. When we speak about these values and act according to them, musicians and educators need to proceed carefully and critically. We rely on reasoned feeling and felt reason in determining how to move forward. For me, none of these values turns out to be without flaw. I concur with Aristotle that one may have too much or too little of a good thing. I am also mindful of the magnitude of the theoretical and practical problems this book raises for musicians and teachers. When I consider the many possibilities I might have explored but could not take up, the large, disparate, and relevant literature bearing on my topic, the challenge of doing justice to the intersections between values, music, and education within the space of a single writing, and my necessarily personal and selective cast on each musical and educational value, I am deeply aware of the incompleteness and fallibility of this analysis. At book’s end, I embrace important questions that await attention. Still, while I have not attempted or accomplished an exhaustive account, I hope that this book serves an instructional, illustrative, and even inspirational purpose of helping readers think about the ways in which values are, can, or ought to be interconnected with music and education.

My objective is modest. I invite you to think through, mull over, worry with, and converse about the values I have examined and decide for yourself what your commitments should be in the specific situations in which you find yourself. This is our individual and collective responsibility and privilege as participants in a humane approach to music education. If my analysis assists you in challenging your preconceptions about taken-for-granted musical and educational values, prompts you to critically reflect on those values to which you are committed, reminds you of values that you might have forgotten, causes you to articulate and support other values that are not discussed in these pages, helps to clarify and shape your music, teaching, and learning, or gives added meaning to your work, this book will have succeeded in its task.

Estelle R. Jorgensen
Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts
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