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ERIC Number: EJ759645
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 2
ISSN: ISSN-1068-3844
A Love Supreme--Riffing on the Standards: Placing Ideas at the Center of High Stakes Schooling
Kohl, Herbert
Multicultural Education, v14 n2 p4-9 Win 2006
The Fake Book is a square spiral bound Xeroxed book, about 7" by 7", maybe 250 pages long. It's all music--the notes, usually in C or B minor, of hundreds of standard tunes, jazz, pop, and every once in a while, classical. The Fake Book and all of its variants provide an evolving canon of tunes that defines a set of common standards for jazz improvisation. For example, the main theme of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" was not in the old fake books but it is there now just as the works of Toni Morrison and June Jordan have entered the canon of American literature. To play well you have to know the standards--not because they make you a better performer but because they provide a common language that allows you to collaborate with other musicians and take off on the tradition and go where your imagination leads you. People who don't understand contemporary jazz hear it as confusing, unstructured, free form, if they listen at all. They prefer an old tune played in a familiar way with comfortable harmonies and tempos. Yet what is comfortable now was probably once uncomfortable and the expanding repertoire of standards provides points of orientation to help people navigate a complex evolving music. So how does a fake book or a taxonomy of educational standards get made? Who adds or rejects a tune or a standard? What is the decision-making process that leads to a common language for learning and improvisation? "Outcome based objectives" was a prior version of the current "educational standards" movement and a successor to Benjamin Bloom's "Taxonomy of Educational Objectives" (1984). The book was the foundation of a system called Mastery Learning, conceived by John Carroll in 1963 and developed by Bloom. It is based on the assumption that all students can master tasks and materials if given enough time. The educational fake books, the objectives and the outcomes, are currently in the process of revision: a humane way to transform schools has been morphed into a harsh and punitive standardization of learning. The current standards movement and the No Child Left Behind testing obsession make no concession to individual differences, even to the point of sometimes refusing to exempt severely handicapped students from the humiliation of assured failure. This gets to the heart of the obscenities underlying No Child Left Behind and many of the attempts to impose rigid standards on all schools and all teachers and all children. The imposition of demands without providing the time, resources, and the opportunity to learn in a more than adequate educational setting is simply setting students and schools up for failure. It does not take much intellectual sophistication to understand this, but it does take a large capacity for hypocrisy to support such demands. From the author's point of view, the best ways to respond are reasoned and determined political opposition coming from the educational research and teacher education community as well as teachers unions and administrators and parent groups--a conscious and thoughtful subversion of the system from within. It is a question of riffing on the fake book of standards within the classroom despite the demands of conforming to scripted curriculum and test obsession. It takes courageous teachers and administrators willing to take risks with their jobs to do this, but fortunately there are many such people who work in public schools. The notion of riffing on the standards implies developing an interesting or powerful idea or theme and then tying it to a learning standard. The crucial thing to understand is that the standards are only fake books and everything important comes with their use; with riffing in the classroom with a heightened attention to the needs, desires, and dreams of students. This is the Love Supreme, the best gift teachers can give to their students.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Minnesota
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001