What kind of world engagement is currently required of music educators? How do music teachers address concerns that are public, even political? Recent history has seen shocking displays of natural disasters and man-made violence. Surely we live in an age that calls for deep questioning and reflection. Are these concerns our own? Might music speak to events like Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, or the attacks on 9/11? Should music educators participate in "political" undertakings? Can we participate in such negotiations?
We know that teaching is rarely located outside the concerns and aspirations [End Page 143] of its citizens. Schools are public forums after all—Dewey saw them as grand experiments in citizenship, democracy, and culture-making. To ask if music education (or any discipline's method of teaching and learning) is political is really to ask "how far" or "how much?" In other words, how far do we go in connecting music education to world events, tragic or otherwise? How much of the world does our music classroom engage in?
Philosophy is a way of reading our world and questioning what we see, feel, think, and hear. We can turn to philosophy to construct a rationale of world engagement that is sensitive, ethical, well-reasoned, and defensible. The goal of this symposium, originally a panel session at the Philosophy Special Research Interest Group of MENC—The National Association for Music Education, Salt Lake City, Utah in 2006, was to offer varied perspectives on the location of music education and political or world engagement. Whether or not it should be attempted? Why and where? And not least, when and how?