Among the roles that philosophy serves in music education, constructive criticism whether of ideas or practices has a crucial place. The philosopher who dares to challenge ideas held to be sacrosanct or a state-of-affairs that obtains in professional practice is rarely in a comfortable position. To challenge is to criticize those whose power and influence may be undermined and whose livelihoods may be jeopardized in the process. Doing philosophy potentially requires one to go beyond mere words to impact the lived lives of music education policy makers, teachers, and students among the various participants in musical instruction. Notwithstanding any discomfort caused to those who articulate ideas or benefit from the status quo, the search for wisdom to which philosophers of music education are committed obligates them to carefully, dispassionately, critically, and in a measured way examine what passes for truth in music education even though the consequences may be discomforting.
In a field such as music education that implicates public policy, it is reasonable to expect philosophers to go further than criticism of the status quo to put the case for alternative positions and practices that likewise merit critical engagement. Since the implications of ideas are often inextricably tied to their practical applications, one might expect philosophers to consider also whether or not other options could be expected to remedy the deficiencies observed in current thought and practice and improve the situation of those engaged in music education. The results of philosophical thinking also entail possible peril to the work of music education especially where such criticism and reconstruction is misguided or not well considered or founded. And so, whether philosophers work from the philosophical literature to practice or from practical examples back to [End Page 121] the philosophical literature, it is important to carefully examine the underpinnings of music education thought and practice and, where applicable, propose alternative positions that are solidly grounded.
During the past decades, writers such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Thomas Popkowitz are among thought leaders in philosophy, political theory, and education respectively whose work is still not widely known among music teachers. Although postmodern writing has been mined by philosophers of music education over the past decade or so, postmodernism construed broadly has come somewhat lately to music education thought and practice, at least in the United States. This conservatism in music education is not a new phenomenon. Looking across the history of music education, the field's thought and practice have often lagged behind those in other social and educational fields. I think, for example, of the impact in North America of Ralph Tyler's curricular ideas in his groundbreaking Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction (1949) that influenced the architects of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (1956). Tyler was among the contributors to the first Tanglewood Symposium (1967) and yet the focus on objectives flowered decades later in music education in Clifford Madsen and Cornelia Yarbrough's Competency Based Music Education (1980). Likewise Joseph Schwab's ideas articulated in his The Practical: A Language for Curriculum (1970) were mined a generation later in music education as a theoretical frame for the Mountain Lake Colloquium for Teachers of General Music Education at the turn of the twenty-first century (Mountain Lake Reader, 1999). Given these precedents, the lag in examining and mining postmodern insights in music education practice as a whole is not really surprising. And one of the purposes of The Philosophy of Music Education Review is to constitute an international forum for discussing ideas that, while they might not yet be in the mainstream of music education, merit wider critical conversation.
Accordingly, Petter Dyndahl's essay leads off this issue with an argument mining Derrida's ideas and suggesting that the focus of music education research needs to move from the quest for certainty and the essentialism that has too often characterized it to focus on aspects that have been marginalized in the common practice of "musical schooling, upbringing, and socialization." In Dyndahl's view, music education research needs to embrace ambiguities, paradoxes, uncertainties, and different approaches to aesthetics than those that have prevailed in the past; also, it has...