Section II - Action and Quest
Place of Publication
London, Ontario Canada
music education philosophy, creativity, neoliberalism, informal learning, child-centeredness, participation, pessimistic activism, Estelle Jorgensen, Foucault, Badiou
This essay asks the question: How are we to think of what Estelle Jorgensen has called “the transgressive” in music education today? My entry point to the question is the suggestion that the struggle against modes of music education that eulogize the status quo, against oppression and authoritarianism, against practices that exclude and intimidate students, has to take the form of “a struggle on two fronts” (Badiou). A struggle against imposed canonicities and obsolete approaches to music teaching but also a struggle against the emerging neoliberal appropriations of education, learning, and creativity. The chapter sketches a struggle-on-two-fronts perspective with regard to the following questions: (1) How are we to understand the call for being ‘open’ to students and their needs? What does it mean, today, to adopt a child-centric perspective in music education? (2) How should we think of the notion of “active” participation? (3) Should we simply accept an equation between informality and openness? The chapter concludes by arguing that, if an important task of education is to critically reconstruct, reinterpret, and re-examine “knowledge for the present and future,” as Estelle Jorgensen has put it, then our approach might need to take the form of a “pessimistic activism”. Invoking the Foucauldian notion of pessimistic activism, I wish to emphasize the need for persistent uncompromised working modes that foster experimentation and criticality on the basis of equality, in the knowledge that in the end, we can neither be sure that our efforts will lead to openness, nor that these efforts will not be cancelled and/or co-opted by the pervading neoliberal ethos.
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Citation of this paper:
Kanellopoulos, P. A. (2019). Rethinking the transgressive: A call for “pessimistic activism” in music education. In R. E. Allsup & C. Benedict (Eds.), The road goes ever on: Estelle Jorgensen’s legacy in music education (pp. 119-137). London, Ontario: Western University. https://doi.org/10.5206/q1144262.jorgensen.2019.ch10