restricted access Response to June Boyce-Tillman, "Towards an Ecology of Music Education"
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Response To June Boyce-Tillman, “Towards an Ecology of Music Education”

June Boyce-Tillman explores the values implicit in the Western musical traditions that also dominate music education. She examines the five interlocking areas of materials, expression, construction, values, and spirituality and how these areas create a more holistic way of conceptualizing the musical experience within music education. By describing the divide between the values of system A and system B, Boyce-Tillman reminds us that these issues are persistent and demand our constant attention as music educators. She supports the conviction that music [End Page 186] curricula should not be dictated by a national curriculum. Instead, education should be a powerful way of supporting the dominant value system of a culture. As an educator focusing on the population of students with special needs, I find myself agreeing with her advocacy of holistic education and suggest that she look at the model of special education to implement this ecology of music education. Boyce-Tillman's proposal evokes a number of responses, of which I will mention two.

My first response is to her belief in the individual within the community. This is often problematic in current educational circles. States and countries are being held to standardized curricula. While in and of themselves standards are not bad because they set educational expectations, dictated curricula do not allow for individuality and creativity. Special education addresses this problem by the use of an individualized education plan (IEP). This plan is devised to meet the abilities and capabilities of each individual student. An IEP states the educational goals for the student with special needs for one academic year. Although the IEP contains year-long educational goals, it also contains the methods for how a student will meet those goals. No two students with special needs will have the same educational curriculum. This idea is supported by humanistic ideas in that the individual child is more important than a fixed curriculum. Furthermore, the IEP is developed by all teachers working with the child. For example, a child with Down syndrome normally works with a speech therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, general education teacher, and several other subject specific teachers (music, art, physical education, and so on). During the creation of the IEP, all therapists and teachers work together to devise the best educational plan for the student. This helps to ensure continuity between therapies and teaching methods.

Currently, many music teachers are excluded from the process of devising the IEP. This also supports Boyce-Tillman's ideas on how national curricula often support the dominant value systems and reinforce the notion of subjugating other value systems. However, I propose that the inclusion of the music teacher in the IEP process because music class is one of the easiest ways to make the student with special needs feel part of a community. The music classroom supports the idea of working together to accomplish a common goal.

My second response relates to the valuing of process. While Western culture has typically placed value on product, the converse is true in special education. Throughout the devising of the IEP, the process of learning is valued. Although special education teachers have an ultimate goal for what the student is to accomplish, it is more important to examine the process of how the student achieves that goal. Furthermore, students with special needs are not given rigid time-lines in which they have to accomplish a goal. Instead, a student is allowed to move at his or her own pace. [End Page 187]

Moreover, while the students with special needs are moving at their own pace, they are also nurtured by the teacher. In the United States it is common for students with special needs to be educated in the classroom with their nondisabled peers. This is referred to as inclusion. For certain parts of the day, the students with special needs may leave the regular classroom and receive tutoring in certain subject areas by the special education teacher. Many teachers who do not have experience in teaching students with special needs have noticed how the students with special needs achieve more when they are with their special education...