Disruptions and Reflections: On Asking “Why?” Here and Now

Today I feel called to write. To go deeper into what I do not know. To question further what I am discovering.

We were around seven meetings into our music education-facilitation course, and I felt frustrated. Something was wrong. Part of that responsibility was my own as one of the educators of the group of Israelis and Palestinians learning facilitation skills with and through utilizing the expressive arts, and yet that was not just it. The other entity at fault was the reality enveloping us all: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on socialization and inflicted trauma. As I spoke with one student during an activity trying to reach him, to make him think beyond what has been forced into his mind as a form of submission, inside I felt desperate. Remain calm. Move slowly. Think deeper. Unfold carefully. Love truly. How deeply had this young man been socialized by the conflict, by trauma, and the education system to be functional, and yet with a sleeping consciousness. How could he begin to imagine and think beyond these forces, to think for himself on his own terms as a young person with already the knowledge and experiences to speak his own truths – to awaken. Sometimes I think I am not prepared to do this; sometimes I think maybe I am not supposed to do this at all. After all, am I not also part of the system? This is in the back of mind all the time – submission of another kind that must also be disrupted.  

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This is not my first encounter of this situation with both Israelis and Palestinians of all ages and sectors, but as I work with Palestinian and Israeli youth (and in the summers with Tunisian youth), this is where I encounter it the most. It is not just the loud and terrifying violent events that intrude our lives – for some occasionally and others daily, but rather the quiet and disturbing presence of the conflict in so many aspects of life here, stifling creativity, imagination, and critical thinking. The longer I am here, the more convinced I am of how incredibly deep its influence is in all sectors of society and everyday life from the mundane to the psychosocial. Though Israelis and Palestinians are both resilient “in defiance of and because of” (Gaye, 2014) the conflict, this then still does not leave much energy or room to confront the socialization of the conflict, trauma, and the conflict in general in ways that explore, as Greene says, beyond the dualities (1995) of what is. If the conflict and occupation relentlessly forces us into submission through its cyclical routine, domination, and impossibility as it oppresses both Palestinians and Israelis in differing ways, then we must be disruptive with equal force and possibility. Perhaps this is simply nonviolence, which can also be described as “positive force.” Perhaps in transformational educational spaces, this is where we can find and re-find,  see and hear our true selves, discovering our power to overcome and co-create beyond what is, as individuals and then maybe as a society. 

“All depends upon a breaking free, a leap, and then a question. I would like to claim that this is how learning happens and that the educative task is to create situations in which the young are moved to begin to ask, in all the tones of voice there are, “Why?” – Maxine Greene, p. 6, Releasing the Imagination 

Like Maxine Greene says, we must be moved to ask “why” in all of “the tones of voices there are” (Greene, p.6, 1995). In a protracted conflict, asking “why” can feel dangerous. Any part of life, whether nationalistic ambitions, religious understanding, methods of resistance, which cannot be questioned, simply become dogmatic – an “ism.” Suppressing and not teaching the act of questioning of society and oneself enables old, oppressive structures to remain in place. Often I tell my students, “If there is nothing to question, there is nothing to learn. And there is always more to learn, therefore there is always more to question.” Enabling these oppressive structures to stay in place by those who benefit from them is its own kind of “banking concept” (1970) as Paulo Freire speaks of, where there are “attempts to control thinking and action,” which then “inhibits their [women and men’s] creative power” (Freire, p.77, 1970). I ask my students questions, such as: “How do we break free, as Greene speaks of, from the given, the taken-for-granted, the ordinary? What feelings are involved in breaking away? What is “wide-awakeness” in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to you? If we are all “becoming,” then what are you “becoming?” Answering these questions requires critical thinking, self-reflection, and raising of critical consciousness. It requires the possibility to imagine what you are not yet. These questions are not only fitting to those involved in a place of protracted conflict. These questions are relevant for everyone, everywhere, while challenging Whiteness, patriarchy, colonialism, self-depreciation, education reform and capitalism in its many harmful forms, and the lack of youth voices in society. And yet this is not only an intellectual exercise, but also an emotional one. The heart is exposed when speaking of identity, narrative, and belonging. Israeli and Palestinian youth speak about how this can feel terrifying, frustrating, confusing, painful, and unsettling, and yet also gratifying, interesting, exciting, comforting, and freeing. To ignore the emotional needs, irregardless of whether Israeli or Palestinian, is equally irresponsible and negligent of the educator when seeking to do everything in her power to reach a young person while she is navigating the socialization of the conflict and trauma. We cannot shut down the heart, whether our own or our students. As hooks says, “When we love, we can let our hearts speak” (hooks, p. xi, 2000).

The call for transformative educational spaces with a critical pedagogy, anti-oppressive competences, and locations of possibility (hooks, 1994) sustained through an “ethic of care”  (Holloway & Krensky, 2001) and attention, from the origins of the word “to hold,” of the participants’ emotional needs could not be greater. In fact as socialization of the conflict is multifaceted, it must also be challenged through an intersectional (Crenshaw, 1989) approach by considering all of the mechanisms of power across class, race, ethnicity, ability, language, religion, and gender. There is so much marginalization of many different groups in this conflict, within and beyond just the two pillars of Israeli and Palestinian. Perhaps by including educational competences about feminism, human rights education, the language of feelings and compassionate communication, in addition to values-based education and learning about each others’ narratives and realities, solidarity can grow. As a musician, I strongly believe as well that we awaken when we experience the arts, musicking (Small, 1995), and co-creation, where we can therefore internalize and continuously renew these topics by actively examining, digesting, putting into practice, processing, self-reflecting, and questioning the many realities and truths co-created within an equalizing process and ultimately, equally a part of each of us. Seeking structural changes in the education systems here from formal to nonformal education are also desperately needed. Often these days I wonder (beyond curriculum and educational process) what this could look like on the level of student/participant, educator/facilitator, organization/NGO, and policy/school system.

Delving deeper into these questions is the responsibility of the educator, the student, the individual, and the society – both Palestinians and Israeli Jews. It is a matter of the heart, mind, and soul. It is a decision to not be complicit in the old, oppressive structures, while also activating possibilities of philosophical and emotional regeneration, of what could be – to ask why?

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APA Citation: Gottesman, S. (2017, June 7). Disruptions and Reflections: On Asking “Why?” Here and Now. Retrieved from: https://musicintervention.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/disruptions-and-reflections-on-asking-why-here-and-now/

REFERENCES

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. U. Chi. Legal F., 139.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York, NY: Continuum.

Gay, R. (2014). Bad feminist. Hachette UK.

Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Holloway, D. L., & Krensky, B. (2001). Introduction: The arts, urban education, and social change.

Hooks, B. (2014). Teaching to transgress. Routledge.

Hooks, B. (2000). All about love: New visions. William Morrow.

Small, C. (1995). Musicking: A ritual in social space. A lecture at the University of Melbourne June 6.

Published second article “On Nationalism, Pluralism, and Educators Actively Questioning Our Identities”

A few weeks ago I shared my first publication. Now I feel so grateful to share my second in the Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis! This second article is meaningful to me because of the topics explored and the work through which it was created.

Thanks to my colleagues, peers, and mom who supported me in writing this. Thank you to all Palestinian and Israeli youth musicians, artists, and singers for being you. 

“Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is a commitment to others. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause–the cause of liberation.” – Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

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To read the article: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/jctp/vol6/iss2/7/

Or here as a PDF: On Nationalism, Pluralism, and Educators Actively Questioning Our Identities

“What Palmer speaks of is a remnant of traditional education, in which teacher is all knowing and student is an empty novice awaiting her or his teacher’s fulfillment of knowledge (Dewey, 2007; Freire, 1970). And yet I believe the “need” of the educator to be unquestioned and infallible in all respects of knowledge and understanding not only disables the dialogical nature of horizontal learning (Freire, 1970) with and from students, furthering a hierarchy within learning which recreates the systems of oppression existent in society, but as well prevents the incredibly transformative need for an educator to look inward to question and reflect upon herself. To co-create liberatory educational spaces (1994) as bell hooks1 speaks of, educators are not exempt from the internal and critical search for understanding of self and community, but rather are called to this place in the pursuit of (e)quality of education.” (Gottesman, 2017, p. 104)

“Palmer’s quote transfers beyond a general context within teaching, but as well to a very particular one: the deconstructing, re-examining, and relearning of what role nationalism and identity plays in our lives and within education, not just as a place of learning but as a space in which to learn to live. One could assert that music education is included here as well. After all, music education is not simply learning how to play one’s instrument and how to read notes, but in addition it is exercising our expressive outlets in which to share our deepest selves, individually and collectively, while exploring how we interpret the creations of others. When we enter the realm of creation in musical spaces, educators must address questions of content, structure, and pedagogy. When we build spaces of learning in music, we must include “our humility toward our own perspective and our capacity to listen to the perspectives of others” (Allsup & Shieh, 2012), from the type of music that enters this space to the realities and musical traditions of our students. This required “wide- awakeneness” as Maxine Greene (1995) speaks of enables educators in musical spaces to question alongside their students what is perceived as unquestionable, to reimagine what is thought of as permanent, to in the words of Palmer, “escape fear’s paralysis and enter a state of grace where encounters with otherness will not threaten us but will enrich our work and our lives” (Parker, 2010, p.57). ” (Gottesman, 2017, p. 104)

Towards better questioning and transformative loving,

Shoshana

P.S. This will also be translated into Arabic and Hebrew as well within the coming months, so please stay tuned!

Published first article “Hear and Be Heard: Learning With and Through Music as a Dialogical Space for Co-Creating Youth Led Conflict Transformation”

After a long journey, I feel so grateful to share my first publication with you all.

Voices Hear and Be Heard
To read the article: https://voices.no/index.php/voices/article/view/857/749

Or here as a PDF: Hear and Be Heard: Learning With and Through Music as a Dialogical Space for Co-Creating Youth Led Conflict Transformation

Though there are many aspects about this article to celebrate, I also recognize it is discussing and seeking an ideal of what can be, of what potential through music, love, critical thinking, co-creation, empathy, and re-education, we all can make our small and large marks on our families, friends, communities, and of course, ourselves.

“It is easy to say that the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks bleak and uncertain. What is clear is the need to continue to (re)invent, (re)extend, (re)generate, and (re)revise our notions of reality, and surely we cannot do this alone. Israeli and Palestinian youth have the power to challenge the status quo of violence, separation, occupation, and inequality by pushing the boundaries in and between their communities to seek the unknown and the stranger hidden behind walls, checkpoints, and fear. It will be a long-term process, perhaps even a life project, but every day is a potential day for both Israeli and Palestinian youth to co-create change.

This notion of youth-led conflict transformation with and through musical spaces extends beyond the context of Israeli and Palestinian youth, and is indeed applicable and relevant to youth throughout the world seeking to hear and be heard in locations of conflict and systemic injustice. Dialogical musical spaces, filled with consonances and dissonances, love, harmonies, care, rhythms, humility, sound and solidarity, are liberatory places in which youth can imagine and proactively co-create locations of possibility.” (Gottesman, 2017, p. 29)

Ultimately, it is in the power of our words and actions to make these choices of who we are “becoming.” 

Beyond the Dualities,

Shoshana

P.S. In addition, I plan on translating the article into Hebrew and Arabic as well within the coming months, so please stay tuned!

Reflections: Challenges of Building Critical Music Education Spaces Within Inter-Group Conflict

Often as a practitioner-music educator, I find myself pondering many questions that arise from my work in practice and how they relate back to theory. Most days, questions arise that I would like to unpack further, but cannot find the time. In fact perhaps each day new questions arise that I can never fully unpack. Many times I feel lousy that there is not the time to explore everything that comes up in practice as fully as I would like. I assume this constant struggle with time is the story of every educator. During these times,  I think of my teachers and inspirations who somehow seem to do so much, if not all, as practitioner-educators. Teach. Question. Write. Ponder. Produce. Examine. Challenge. Reflect. Suggest. Be Present.  In the spirit of their tireless work, I will share one of my current quandaries. 

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Recently, I wrote an article for 972.Mag questioning the criticality of the work of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations, emphasizing that if even we in the peacebuilding and reconciliation fields cannot name the inequality in front of us and within our programs, how do we expect those in our spaces of learning and in society to do so either? As you have perhaps guessed, I am also a part of this field, working for two such music education NGOs. But even the former statement is overly simplified, and paints an incomplete explanation of the issue at hand. We, as educator-practitioners, must constantly look much closer and deeper through a critical lens at what we are creating (or not creating) within our programs. Every decision and action of ours, whether in determining structure and pedagogy of the program to facilitation techniques and overall theory of dialogue, does not happen within a vacuum. The continuity of experience (Dewey, 2007) for our youth musicians[1] within our programs is in continuous formation, and directly affected by our choices of action, and inaction. We are responsible, and one of the largest “of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only the particular things she/he is studying at the time.” (Dewey, 2007, p.48) All of these factors matter. And in that same light, all of these factors determine if we, as practitioner-educators, are actively choosing to build with our youth musicians a just, positive peace. (Barash, 2009, p.146)

Reading Our World HB: Haifa

How can we look at this issue through an educational theory lens? A good starting place is beginning with John Dewey’s theoretical examinations of educational experience or experiential learning. Experiential learning is a basic component for all learning, and a particular component of many Israeli and Palestinian peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations with such a large focus, across all mediums, on sharing one’s narrative and experiences, and learning by listening to others. John Dewey in Experience and Education explores the differences between traditional and progressive education, with a concentration on the possibilities of either, and how these relate to the conception of learning through experience. 

Dewey challenges the assumption that traditional education is inherently negative, and therefore against progress, while progressive education must be automatically better by default because it is modern. Instead of placing the old and the new as reactionary, direct opposites of each other, Dewey points out that experiences aren’t lacking in traditional education, but rather they are “defective and wrong character- wrong and defective from the standpoint of connection with further experience.” (Dewey, 2007, p.27) The inability of traditional education to foster experiences that lead to further growth limits learning, equality within learning experiences, and the ability to adapt to our globalizing, ever changing world. In other words, “It is not enough to insist upon the necessity of experience, nor even of activity in experience. Everything depends upon the quality of the experience which is had.” (Dewey, 2007, p.27) An often missed point is that this does not only serve as a reason to not teach with traditional education, but in addition applies dually to any type of progressive education in both formal and non-formal education. 

How does this relate back to musical spaces of learning amidst inter-group conflict? The majority of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations exist within the structure of non-formal education, meaning that they exist outside of the formal school system, but have some type of structured learning, largely with an emphasis on experiential learning. In any of these educational youth programs, music or not, each has the potential to either be mis-educative or lead to further growth depending on its structure and pedagogy. “The belief that all genuine education comes about through experiences does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative.” (Dewey, 2007, p.25) Some experiences can be “mis-educative” (Dewey, 2007), and any experience that is mis-educative “has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience.” (Dewey, 2007, p.25) Of course the obvious choice is: we would all like for our programs to lead to further growth. Yet, the chances of this happening is connected to our ability to foster quality experiences dependent on:

  1. “an immediate aspect of agreeableness or disagreeableness” (Dewey, 2007, p.27)
  2. “its influence upon later experiences” (Dewey, 2007, p.27)

If inter-group power dynamics manifesting in the representation of who is speaking over another, constant use of the dominating language in the group, speaking in a language not everyone understands equally, and control of one ethnicity group in decision-making processes within the group over the other ethnicity, are not identified, challenged, and disrupted, quality of experiences will be lost and be unequal. Practitioner-educators and staff personnel cannot just learn to be aware of what are these dynamics. A critical, youth-centered pedagogy and structure must be adopted, and even beyond that, implemented with Paulo Freire’s critical ingredients of love, care, humility, and solidarity.

Like most uncharted educational territory, new questions bubble to the surface, such as: what is a “quality-of-experience” educational structure for a music peacebuilding/reconciliation education program? What should dialogue look like? How should understanding and knowledge be assessed? What is considered a successful program? All of these questions could be answered differently by different organizations depending on context. No matter the context though, addressing power dynamics and the experiences of learning within the bounds of the program, and considering experiences of learning outside of the program occurring simultaneously, are nonnegotiable. In the words of Dewey, “A principle responsibility of educators is that they not only be aware of the general principle of the shaping of actual experience by environing conditions, but that they also recognize in the concrete what surroundings are conducive to having experiences that lead to growth.” (Dewey, 2007, p.40) This is even more crucial in peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations to challenge existing power dynamics while also transforming violent conflict. Ultimately, one cannot be won without the other. 

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Within a protracted conflict, cycles of violence and systemic injustice are reoccurring everyday, often affecting Israelis and Palestinians in disproportionate ways.  As the conflict continues to spiral, its affect takes a toll on each ethnicities’ socialization. It is the duty of peacebuilding and reconciliation educational organizations of all mediums to disrupt this socialization of separation, segregation, violence, hate, and incitement by using a critical pedagogy in education to foster new structures and frameworks of equality, freedom, rights, and dignity. After all, education is not synonymous with socialization (Hansen, 2010), whereas the opposite is the case of socialization, which creates and informs experiences of learning, both of quality and mis-educative. 

As music educator-facilitators, it is our responsibility to build a musical space that is loving, caring, dialogical, and critical for our youth musicians. Within this space as a location of possibilities (hooks, 1994), youth musicians are enabled to fully explore the boundlessness of music, while also learning for and about peacebuilding, nonviolence, solidarity, human rights, social justice, coexistence, and coresistence. Ultimately, this is a means and an end, a continuity of experiences, a process-product-process-product progression of raising the critical consciousness of youth musicians, in which they can transfer their new and renewed knowledge, understanding, and skills to less safe spaces in their world. We must pay attention (from the linguistic root “to hold”) to the balance of individual youth musician growth within the group dynamic and the overall encounter dynamic in and between the group identities of Israeli and Palestinian- not to mention as well gender dynamics. Our curriculum, or beginning formations of curriculum, must be built with the structures and pedagogy of values, such as equality, freedom, rights, dignity, in addition to musical content and pro-social skills, that will lead to (e)quality experiences[2] “that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences.” (Dewey, 2007, p.28) 

Recognizing the need always for more context and examples, I leave you with a few questions to reflect upon and a few articles to peruse:

1. When building an educational musical space, what are our assumptions about those participating, and the underlying power dynamics within space, language, knowledge, and culture?

2. How do we address the needs and feelings of every youth musician equally? And along those lines, how can this musical space be a safe or safer space for every youth musician equally? 

3. How do we introduce meaningful musical content through a critical pedagogy that is connected to the new, and yet the local? In other words how do we as music practitioner-educators foster a space where what is loyal to the local/known, and what is open to the new/unknown (David Hansen’s Cosmopolitanism and Education) can co-mingle, exploring harmonies and  dissonances between the two and beyond.

4. Confrontation and pedagogy: Cultural secrets, trauma, and emotion in antioppressive pedagogies – Ann Berlak

5. How to Talk About Privilege to Someone Who Doesn’t Want To – Jaime Utt 

6. Education and Experience – John Dewey

I hope these support further questioning and bubbling to the surface that will take us all beyond dualities and into places of “in-between” and “becoming,” as we navigate the daily challenges and excitements of this work with our youth musicians. 

“The relation between freedom and the consciousness of possibility, between freedom and the imagination- the ability to make present what is absent, to summon up a condition that is not yet.” (Greene, 1988, p. 16)

[1] I refer to youth participants as “youth musicians” throughout the article to address specifically my context and for ease of understanding. The term “youth participants” of any project, whether arts-based, sports-based, etc., is also an applicable term instead of “youth musician” in every instance. 

[2] I have placed the “(e)” in front of “quality” to emphasize that the quality of experience in an inter-group space depends on whether “equality” is present in structure, pedagogy, and content. This is a new theoretical musing of mine that I will investigate further in upcoming posts. 

 

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APA Citation: Gottesman, S. (2015, February 24).Reflections: Challenges of Building Critical Music Education Spaces Within Inter-Group Conflict. Retrieved from: https://musicintervention.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/reflections-challenges-of-building-critical-music-education-spaces-within-inter-group-conflict/

REFERENCES

1. Berlak, A.C. (2004). Confrontation and pedagogy: Cultural secrets, trauma, and emotion in antioppressive pedagogies. Counterpoints, 123-144.

2. Dewey, J. (2007). Experience and education. Simon and Schuster. 

3. Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum.

4. Greene, M. (1988). “Freedom, education, and public spaces.” In The dialectic of freedom (pp. 1-23). New York: Teachers College Press.

5. Hansen, D. (2010). Cosmopolitanism and education: A view from the ground.The Teachers College Record, 112(1).

What’s Going on NOW

I would like to present a few pieces of media where youth are utilizing the Internet as a new, open platform for self-expression where they are making the media that expresses and shapes their world. Though globalizing contributes to some of the risk factors youth face, globalization also provides the opportunity for youth to challenge their surroundings via access and technology.

This is connected to Youth, Risk and Equity in a Global World. Though below the majority are music videos, it does not only have to be via music video. Any form of media is possible, which is why I also included a spoken word “Hope List” from 5th-8th graders at KIPP Star Middle School on SoundCloud, and a song on SoundCloud written by Tunisian youth musicians. The possibilities are endless!

A Letter to Those Co-Creating Social Change With and Through Music

Dear musicians, music educators, scholars, educator-facilitators, activists, researchers, and anyone else who would like to join,

It has taken me a while to arrive here. It has taken me a while to piece together the many strands of what I have experienced in practice and learned in theory this past year. It is not until recently that I “caught sense” of what is this developing grassroots field we and the youth we work with are in the process of co-creating. More than ever I feel this edgy pressure bellowing down my back to share, and to make accessible the funds of knowledge I’ve gained while studying my MA at Teachers College with you all- musicians, music educators, scholars, educator-facilitators, activists,  researchers, and anyone else involved in this field throughout the world. It is the language and understanding of this field that I hope to develop in dialogue with you all who are investigating theory and who are in practice on the ground.

When asked earlier this semester by a professor of mine that I highly admire whether it was my goal to publish anything by the end of this year, I answered with a resounding, “No.” I shut that door so closed that I could feel my eyes squeeze shut. Let’s be real, putting  your discoveries down on paper and then sharing them on a public platform is terrifying. Many questions arise surrounding your validity, your right to lay down such ideas, explanations, and beliefs: Will they think it’s smart enough? Will I seem “expert” enough? Does this really matter? Who is this for?!

Several weeks ago, I had, in the words of educational philosopher Maxine Greene, “an awakening.” When will it be time for me to assume this role of interpreter, researcher, knower, doer, and sharer in this developing field? As long as I wait for the next understanding, and then the next understanding, I will find myself waiting forever. No change can come in waiting, whether boldly big or significantly small, for somebody else to tell you that the time has arrived. Along these lines, I found within my own musical and administrative work with grassroots music education-youth empowerment nonprofits that a divide arose before me between the language that I have learned in my MA and the language that is understood on the ground in practice. Overcoming this divide is critical, and the way I believe we can do this is by uncovering the existent bridge between theory and practice, so that individuals from both worlds can speak with each other.

What is theory after all but just a way of explaining ideas and understandings? What is practice after all but the carrying out of ideas and understandings? Educational philosopher Paulo Freire speaks of the idea of praxis, the conjoining of theory and practice. In other words we learn by taking action and then from reflecting upon this action. And who are educational philosophers anyway, but people who do not take what happens in the world for granted by noticing the world around them and who they are in this world. It is the re-recognizing of our everyday knowledge that exists within every one of us, while uncovering new parts of ourselves when we experience and reflect upon new things or re-experience and reflect upon past things- like the already existent bridge between theory and practice that we are unveiling.

I thought this was clear to me after all my experience in practice and now time in academia, but then felt a reverberating shock when I found myself entangled in this abyss. It became clear that my call to write could wait no longer as I found myself part of the system that continues to create this divide. I had become “the stranger” to the world of practice when my first steps into activism and social change were born in practice! And yet, could I have made this discovery if I did not find myself “the stranger” in this situation where what had been familiar became unfamiliar?

It is my utmost goal from this point on to do everything possible to unveil the bridge connecting these two worlds with you through interpreting and discovering with care, providing points of entry for those involved in theory and those involved in practice, and hopefully co-creating with you all an ever evolving space in which these two worlds meet, so we can truly foster social change through our daring work.

With love,

Shoshana

Structure and Creativity: Learning about and for Peacebuilding & Musicmaking

The field of peacebuilding is ever growing and expanding with new partnerships forming between state and non-state actors through more creative ways of access enabled by advancing technological platforms.  Amidst a rather negative media that seems to be more willing to tell stories of conflict, rather than stories of peacebuilding and reconciliation, it is incredibly important to create a stronger emphasis on exposing communities to the integral activism that is occurring perhaps even in their own backyards.

As the field of peacebuilding continues to grow, so too does the development of critical peacebuilding education increasingly with a focus on music and the expressive arts. One such example of this was brought to my attention recently.

The grammy winning Colombian musician Juanes, a familiar name in my own music library, recently partnered with the United States Institute of Peace Global Peacebuilding Center (GPC) to address his activism as a musician and peacebuilder through music.  This partnership, between state and non-state actor nonetheless with music as a medium for social activism, perked my interest. Not only does this partnership facilitate and serve as an example of the many ways in which music can be utilized as a tool for social activism, but in addition it is a resource perfect for the classroom readily accessible through the Internet and technology.

Searching further on the GPC website, I found a short video segment created by GPC recognizing the importance of youth and peacebuilding pointing to the growing power of youth via social media and technology.

In the music classes I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at KIPP Star Middle School in Harlem, I used both the GPC’s Juanes video segment and the Bukra fi Mishmish music video, written and performed by Israeli and Palestinian youth members of Heartbeat, as examples of how music is powerful. From there, we asked ourselves: what is our Hope List? What do we hope for ourselves, our families, our communities, our world? Our Hope Lists, which will ultimately serve as the foundation of the last song(s) of the semester, were shared via an exercise called a Sensitivity Line (to view, please visit the KIPP Star Musical Collective blog).

The Sensitivity Line is a group performance exercise that was taught to me by PYE- Global: Partners for Youth Empowerment during the Seeds of Peace-Educators Course I attended last August. The Sensitivity Line gives each student the spotlight to shine, yet while in a group atmosphere with group support. By putting the student constructively “on edge”, the interest in delivering a rewarding outcome in front of peers increases the student’s affinity for self-efficacy, thus building self-confidence, too.

I was impressed with the overall results of this classroom activity on many levels. My students:

1. Had fun!

2. Learned new aspects about music, musicmaking, and peacebuilding.

3. Deepened their understanding about themselves, their peers, and their communities.

4. Expressed critical consciousness, solidarity, and imagination.

5. Were constructively put “on edge” by performing through the Sensitivity Line

6. Experiencing the concepts of drafting and process.

I look forward to the possibility of many more classroom activities such as this one, which facilitate growth and creativity, while teaching about and for the subjects on hand. After all, great partnerships and imagination made this classroom activity possible.

(And by great partnerships, I am also referring to the genius and loving nature of my best friend who created the idea of the Hope List.)

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