This month, the journal "Music Education Research" released a review of my book, Eco-Literate Music Pedagogy, written by insightful and critical author, Lise C. Vaugeois. Dr. Vaugeois has long contributed to our field's scholarship, including important critiques and extensions of praxialism, with a focus on postcolonialism and institutionalization. I am especially happy to have this review because Vaugeois takes my work seriously, and also helps extend my work in ways I requested in the book itself (toward ethically good ends). Here are some important points Vaugeois makes about my work:
1. I'm building a case for a 'philosophy on soil," which is focused on place, diversity, and roots decision-making in local contexts.
2. I use my embodied experiences to try to resolve dissonances between music education practice and the ecological challenges.
3. This project is rooted in a Catholic spiritual practice.
4. The pedagogy I recommend is sensual, spends time outdoors, uses eco-activist songs, and is creative, employing students creating compositions based on soundscapes.
5. I'm seeking a change in consciousness (notably, my own).
6. I am committed to opening time for spiritual wellbeing, esp. connecting teachers and students to the sounds of nature.
7. I also am dedicated to intersectionality (between ecological challenges and issues of sexism, racism, and classism--I have since began considering intersections of disability as well).
8. She also suggests that my argument for eco-literate pedagogy being integrated into music classrooms is "quite compelling."
Here is where she finds the book does not go far enough. Vaugeois challenges me to:
9. Avoid creating a dichotomy between the cultural and political; because it can undermine the development of critical consciousness.
10. She uses a Fredrick Douglass quote, "Power concedes nothing without a demand," to suggest sensual experience of nature is not enough.
11. She sees my portrayal of local places as apolitical, and wants me to focus on indigenous experiences with place more.
12. She sees the aim of creating an underlying philosophical structure "unweildy" with "too many gaps to be successful."
Finally, Vaugeois recommends, in addition to the eco-literate pedagogies mentioned above (see Point #4), that the music classroom further explore "a full range of musics of resistance--as means to listen to voices not necessarily visible in one's 'place,' and a means to explore the institutional structures, and economic interests, that hold gender, race and class oppression, along with resistance to climate change mitigation, in place."
I agree entirely with the spirit of Vaugeois's criticisms and appreciate the positive things she wrote of my monograph. And I agree there are inconsistencies and gaps in it. In the Prelude to my book, I wrote that I hoped to provide "a map--an imperfect map, but also a longing, searching, and hopefully thoughtful map." This is connected to my understanding of my work as, in some ways, post-modern. It is also likely that, through this blog and my more recent publications, I may have been able to clarify some of the more political dimensions to my thought that Dr. Vaugeois did not see emphasized enough. There are inconsistencies in it, which I think is probably consistent with the North American philosophical tradition. As Emerson (the thinker who Cornel West begins his well-known history of American Philosophy with) wrote in his paradoxical essay, Self-Reliance, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He [sic] may as well concern himself [sic] with the shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said to-day.—"Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood."—Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood?" I hope it is not bad to be misunderstood, if that misunderstanding moves our field in ecologically sustainable and regenerative directions.
As I understand our differences (and not to make a point-by-point response in a blog post), Vaugeois aims to focus change on policy. I have a tendency to view this type of change as top-down, and furthermore, impossible. Most people have access to local places, local organizations, local politicians even; not to national and international politicians. I suspect Vaugeois and I also see the idea of "culture" differently--I see it locally, and resist the idea of culture (such as in T.S. Eliot) as big and global. Cultures, for me, come back to the cultus (the local cult, linked to a specific bioregion's spiritual practices and yearly cycle). If a culture is global, and is not intergenerational, it is something else; something that may be very valuable and very meaningful; but not culture. My model begins with local cultures, but then moves to regional, national, and global politics. For me sustainable being precedes sustainable action. (An old saying, you wouldn't trust a bald barber, comes to mind). Students and teachers understand themselves first, live well in place first, and then do politics sustainably and regeneratively, from a place of sustainable being. There is no dichotomy after we change ourselves. Our sustainable politics flows naturally. Even with our apparent differences, in Vaugeois I read a needed ally for that cause of eco-literate music pedagogy; and I greatly appreciate such an important one.