Integrating Music in History Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

Meaningful history education moves beyond traditional practice by suggesting the inclusion of student and issues centered approaches to teaching and learning. Our children's natural desire to make sense of their world can be enhanced through the appreciation and application of popular media as a pedagogical tool. This article explores the possibilities of integrating music as an example of popular media for effective history education.

Introduction

What is the role of schools in promoting history education? How do the current practices in teaching and learning impact history education? What is the role of popular media in society? Does popular media have a role in the education process of secondary students? Is there a connection between popular media and history education? Popular media is at the center of societal controversy and debate at present. Popular media embodies a language of both critique and possibility; a language that allows students to locate themselves in history, find their own voices, and establish convictions and compassion necessary for democratic civic courage (Freire and Giroux, 1989).

History education in our schools has suffered for some time. Issues include the ongoing Iculture warsO between history and social studies, standardization leading to test preparation in place of history education, and low level transmission of information, among others. As a result history education needs rethinking and transformation (Loewen, 1995). Howard Zinn also suggests that we often decontextualize history in our schools by providing merely the I'winner'sO perspective (2000). We must also address the components of powerful history teaching and learning including approaches that are meaningful, integrative, inquiry-based, challenging, and active. The ultimate goal might be the transformation of history education to a student-centered, problem-based, critical analysis focus (White, 2000). We must acknowledge that popular media is part of our lives and is very important to our society, our citizens, and especially our children. In a society increasingly fragmented by debate, misunderstandings, and lack of consensus, popular media remains one of the few arenas that provides a forum for common understandings, dialog, and communication. It is precisely in the diverse spaces and spheres of popular media that much of education is taking place on a global scale today (Giroux, 1994).

The overt goal of our schools is to enhance knowledge, skills, and values development for our children. Unfortunately these goals are more often than not top down, authoritarian and promote passivity. These goals therefore seem to be driven by the ultimate goal of preparing our youth for the world of work. This is a realistic goal for schools, but should not be the driving force. Ultimately, we must prepare students for active participation as global citizens; and this means that we have a responsibility to teach for social efficacy, thus empowering students to be engaged in societal issues. What need we do to promote meaningful history education? Meaningful history education moves beyond traditional practice by suggesting the inclusion of student and issues centered approaches to teaching and learning. Advocates these approaches to history education suggest that our schools are often demeaning and disempowering places where children are either bored into submission or where the transmission and socialization techniques destroy any hope for critical inquiry. A history curriculum is needed that encourages participation, inquiry, and critical analysis (Westheimer and Kahne, 1998). What is the connection we all seem to have with popular media? If we are truly interested in providing meaning to kids' lives as we engage in teaching and learning, why don't we do a better job of integrating popular media into education? Our children's natural desire to make sense of their world can be enhanced through the appreciation and application of popular media as a pedagogical tool. …