Event Title

There's Madness in (Your Notion of) Method: The Popular Misconception of Method and Its Effects on Music Education

Start Date

1-6-2011 12:30 PM

End Date

1-6-2011 1:00 PM

Description

Drawing principally on the work of the philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, this paper explores the problematic notion of method in music education and argues that popular notions of method have had a deleterious effect on the development of music education by discouraging educators and, by proxy, their students from embracing conflict or pursuing counterinductive ways of thinking about music. Feyerabend argues that in the natural sciences knowledge advances not according to principles traditionally associated with scientific methodology, but rather as a result of contradictions that are recognized between “partly overlapping” theories that are “mutually inconsistent.” Unfortunately, our collective failure to recognize the limitations of method with regard to scientific knowledge has led to the widespread yet mistaken belief that it plays the central role in the development of important theories. Thus, in the debate over whether the “objective” and “methodical” approach to research supposedly pre-eminent in the physical sciences is appropriate for a subject such as music, it generally goes unnoticed that “pure” scientific research is, strictly speaking, neither objective nor necessarily methodical, as Thomas Regelski (1996) has argued with regard to pervasive scientism in music education research. Beyond the realm of music education research, however, the popular yet mistaken idea that method is the key to theory development has arguably contributed to its enshrinement as not simply a useful scaffold for facilitating musical development but, in many cases, the only ostensibly suitable goal of music education. Indeed, the pseudo-religious worship of music education methods can arguably be traced directly to these misconceptions about the role of scientific method in the development of various theories about the world in general, particularly given the need for (scientific?) legitimation faced by so many arts educators. Through an historical examination of various discourses on popular music education methods and the published materials themselves, as well as an examination of the ways in which methods associated with music education theories have been received, this paper posits that a relationship exists between these discourses and the generally accepted belief that method necessarily plays a key role in the discovery of important new knowledge. Special attention is paid to the discourses surrounding two music education methods in particular: the Kodály method and the method associated with Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory. It must be stressed that the focus of this analysis is not the truth content of these methods, but rather the manner in which proponents discuss and propagate them. These examples show that, historically, we have suffered a series of localized and/or consecutive bouts of “totalizing discourse” that have resulted from this unfortunate tendency of associating rigid adherence to method with truth seeking. As an alternative, it is argued that Feyerabend’s notion of a “pluralistic methodology,” which involves the historicization of both theories and the methods they spawn through an awareness of a plurality of conflicting views, is better suited to the needs of music education, and should be embraced if music educators are to be leaders by approaching their profession more critically.

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Jun 1st, 12:30 PM Jun 1st, 1:00 PM

There's Madness in (Your Notion of) Method: The Popular Misconception of Method and Its Effects on Music Education

Drawing principally on the work of the philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, this paper explores the problematic notion of method in music education and argues that popular notions of method have had a deleterious effect on the development of music education by discouraging educators and, by proxy, their students from embracing conflict or pursuing counterinductive ways of thinking about music. Feyerabend argues that in the natural sciences knowledge advances not according to principles traditionally associated with scientific methodology, but rather as a result of contradictions that are recognized between “partly overlapping” theories that are “mutually inconsistent.” Unfortunately, our collective failure to recognize the limitations of method with regard to scientific knowledge has led to the widespread yet mistaken belief that it plays the central role in the development of important theories. Thus, in the debate over whether the “objective” and “methodical” approach to research supposedly pre-eminent in the physical sciences is appropriate for a subject such as music, it generally goes unnoticed that “pure” scientific research is, strictly speaking, neither objective nor necessarily methodical, as Thomas Regelski (1996) has argued with regard to pervasive scientism in music education research. Beyond the realm of music education research, however, the popular yet mistaken idea that method is the key to theory development has arguably contributed to its enshrinement as not simply a useful scaffold for facilitating musical development but, in many cases, the only ostensibly suitable goal of music education. Indeed, the pseudo-religious worship of music education methods can arguably be traced directly to these misconceptions about the role of scientific method in the development of various theories about the world in general, particularly given the need for (scientific?) legitimation faced by so many arts educators. Through an historical examination of various discourses on popular music education methods and the published materials themselves, as well as an examination of the ways in which methods associated with music education theories have been received, this paper posits that a relationship exists between these discourses and the generally accepted belief that method necessarily plays a key role in the discovery of important new knowledge. Special attention is paid to the discourses surrounding two music education methods in particular: the Kodály method and the method associated with Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory. It must be stressed that the focus of this analysis is not the truth content of these methods, but rather the manner in which proponents discuss and propagate them. These examples show that, historically, we have suffered a series of localized and/or consecutive bouts of “totalizing discourse” that have resulted from this unfortunate tendency of associating rigid adherence to method with truth seeking. As an alternative, it is argued that Feyerabend’s notion of a “pluralistic methodology,” which involves the historicization of both theories and the methods they spawn through an awareness of a plurality of conflicting views, is better suited to the needs of music education, and should be embraced if music educators are to be leaders by approaching their profession more critically.