Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A college education?

I have been thinking about "college". Is college all it has been built up to be? Think of the premier colleges that cost 50K a year in tuition. What do you get for the 200K, 4 year experience? Could you get a "higher education" some other way? Is the certificate or diploma really that valuable? A college education does not insure a quality job. How many historians are needed? How many creative writers can find a job requiring their talents? The same goes for political scientists, visual artists, musicians, etc. There are talents that are desperately needed in our country -- engineers, R & D scientists, etc.

The bigger question is are only colleges capable of delivering such a high level of education? I have witnessed the greatest musicians around me who are superior to what can be delivered by most colleges; and, they grew to a master level by studying with a master teacher. Do we only need a master teacher? Is a college merely a sea of teachers where a master teacher can be found?

I wager that if a student (who is motivated) had a master teacher in their content area along with a humanist who has vision could probably meet if not surpass what a college education would produce. Think back in your personal education consider the number of master teachers you bumped into. What would you have learned if you could have studied with them on a master teacher/student level for a couple of years?

The intangibles of college would need to be sought out -- community, teamwork, etc. To many students in college, these areas are the most memorable when compared to the the pure academic side of college.

This would probably be a good idea for undergraduate work. Undergraduate work is different from graduate work. I feel the graduate schools have a higher need because the academic community becomes complex and requires a high level of sharing of information (especially in all research areas).

I wonder what a master teacher would cost? 200K.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Well the blog has been silent (for an number of reasons - mostly mine). I have moved away from the political arguments that populate the airways, they are far from intellectual. Passion, although a powerful persuader, it is an untruth when based on blind emotion or fear (ugly).

I have been a music teacher and in that capacity a musical director. The job of recruiting is vital to the success of musical ensembles - both large and small.

So among my honed skills is the ability to inspire, motivate, and persuade. Students had to chose my classes. There was no school requirement to take my classes (unlike math, English, etc.) Students had to want to be in my classes. My success depended on my ability to recruit.

The danger with developing skills of recruiting (persuasion, motivation, inspiration, faith in me and what will be learned) is that they can be based on emotion rather than real substance based on what is needed by the individual students. Each student comes with similar but different needs.

As the director of an ensemble I am pressured to do what will define my own worth and station in the academic community, it is easy to focus on the need of building a strong ensemble and losing sight of the needs of the individual.

I always looked for the best musicians. But, what if the experience for these already skilled students will be one of frustration and not growth? I need them; however, they do not really need me or the group.

Hence, the dilemma. My needs versus the student's needs. Hmm. . Now I am the true politician. Can I persuade the student I need to join my ensemble? What can I give them in return? Emotional praise? Guilt? Money? Wow! this sounds more and more like a beltway politician. Maybe there is little difference.

I fought this mental battle every year I taught. Having a great group that is outstanding in the eyes of my peers is a great desire. In opposition, having a group of weak musicians turn into a group of less weak musicians can be a real high but not a career builder.

Conclusion: Giving lip service to the real needs of the students while only servicing the needs of building a great ensemble is hypocritical but typical of anyone in power who wants to maintain power -- musical directors, theater artistic directors, senators, congressmen, clergy, etc.

Humans are so clever that to persuade around the truth is a real talent. More depressing is that the masses believe these people and continue the argument without any concern for where they have been giving these persuasions.

I am now retired and don't have to face this dilemma every time I need to build a performing group.

Let's not even talk about how we play the game of finding funding for these groups.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Who's Economy?

All parties arguing "the economy" disagree in great measure. How could these experts be at such odds? It is my theory that there is not "an economy" but at least three economies in a macro sense.

There is the investor class most interested in their wealth and building wealth. Great fun and exciting. Creates a great sense of superiority.

There is the middle class which has no wealth but lives pay check to pay check. There is always a sense of fear that someone might get sick or a job might be lost.

And finally, there is the poor who have little to nothing and must depend on outside forces for support and livelihood. Generally, the government tries to offer support.

The dreams of each economy is very different.

The wealthy wish to increase their wealth and to do so means the middle class needs to spend what money they have (or monthly paychecks) to purchase the products the wealthy business communities want to produce and sell.

Those in the middle class are looking for bargains. They are now forced to shop at big box stores. They have lost the ability to increase re-finance their homes. They no longer have "promised money against their homes". In fact, their homes are in jeopardy. They are trying to save anything they can to prepare for the future.

The poor are still poor.

The wealth of America is now described as Global. This means that the wealthy class can now pull wealth from the middle class of other countries. This seems to work for their business, especially if the business is moved out of America; however, this means they do not need the middle class of America to work for them because they now have China and Vietnam to manufacture for them.

The government is now desperately needed to support the poor and the falling middle class. The wealthy class hates having their money (taxes) used to support those who do not think ahead enough to build wealth.

The problem is no taxes are coming in because the middle class and of course the poor have little to be taxed. Lack of taxes means the middle class and especially the poor now become desperate. Remember, Reagan cut entitlements by expelling the mentally ill out of the government institutions to the streets . Good for the government but terrible for those now on the streets.

The wealthy argue that to tax them is to slow "the economy". Who's economy?

The fact is that over years, aided by lobbyists, the wealth of American has been migrating toward the very rich. With this migration the engine of moving money in all three economies has slowed dramatically. The wealthy now need the middle class to SPEND. Unfortunately they do not have the wealth to increase the flow of wealth to the truly wealthy. Over 90% of America's wealth is in the hands of 5% of Americans.

Meanwhile, the truly wealthy have written off the poor. They are invisible. They are the poor stupid citizens that are raping the federal budget through entitlements.

The arguments are that federal jobs cost too much in comparison to the private sector. If you compare the top job federally to the private sector (President of the United States to the CEO of Exxon). 400K to ????) not even close.

The wealthy in the private sector do not share well with the worker bees. Hence the movement of jobs to Vietnam.

Lastly, the trickle down theory cannot be documented by anyone I know. When the wealthy are given more wealth, they keep it, share it with their wealthy friends, complain about the unions for trying to build job security, hardly wealth.

So, the wealthy class wants a Republican sweep this fall. Will this get the middle class to start spending again (with no money).

Advocates for the middle class are characterized as big government lovers who are slowing the economy of the wealthy who will "share the wealth" if the could only get more money through tax cuts. There is no evidence of this.

The poor will continue to be poor. The middle class is afraid they will slip into the poor category. The progressive left is concerned but written off by the wealthy class.

The wealthy class wants to privatize all social services as if the middle class and the poor had any money left over to "invest wisely" in these necessities. But why should the wealthy class care about the middle class let alone the poor.

Conclusion, the wealthy have played the game so well they now have most of America's wealth. They are so good, they have convinced a large percentage of the middle class that they wealthy need more wealth before than can hire. Whose roll is it to redistribute this wealth? The wealthy hate this term because it is their wealth that needs to be redistributed.

However, if the wealth resides entirely at the top level as it is now, then educational equality, medical equality will continue to decrease to the point that the social system will deteriorate into a cast system that will offer no opportunity of the middle class let alone the port to transcend.



Sunday, August 08, 2010

Tax Me Please

I have been in music ensembles from a size of just two members to over 120 (marching band). As much as the American Dream says that with equal support and backing anyone can do whatever they want we as musicians know this does not work. (This is also an espoused line from Disney and children networks around the world.)

In my experience in music groups it only takes seconds of playing together to realize that there were those who are strong and competent and those who have serious perceptual and skill deficiencies. In fact, no matter how hard they clicked their heels in their issued red sequined shoes, they would not measure up to the strengths and qualities of the others in the ensemble.

So the statement of equality should be modified to "equal chance" to participate. I know this is a sad statement. Perception is a very strange thing. If an individual attempts a skill but cannot perceive the nuances of this skill can they ever deliver the skill at a high level? Even with extreme practice, this cannot be solved to a high percentage.

So, where does this leave us? In a community where equal desires do not reproduce equal product then what do we do with the least productive of us?

Write them off? This is the argument of reducing entitlements. What percentage of the population are we willing to write-off? Ronald Regan is known for many things but his greatest legacy in my mind is that he put out the mentally ill onto the streets. He cut an entitlement. Hurray! But the weakest of us all just became invisible. Sitting on streets with cups in their hands and sleeping in parks and doorways. Great resolution. These poor people do not have boot straps.

I too want to cut entitlements. Let's start with all the corporate subsidies. They are already rich. They don't sleep on park benches. Why do they get bonuses even when they lose money (rarely).

I want to rise up the new Patriot. The American who wants to solve problems. If I had a way to direct money directly to the deficit that the government must match equally, I would love to be taxed at a higher rate. The government then must pay as they go. Let the citizens solve the problem.

Business will never solve this problem -- their job is to make as much money as possible and not spend for reasons that do not help the share holders.

Tax me, Tax the patriots. But don't let the greedy share in any of the new money flow. If the government does not match the funds then this will not work.

Be a patriot financially, not a partisan.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

School debt

Watching the increase of the need to educate those who need to expand their future potential and the education industry that feeds on them is becoming more and more out of control.

Just like the ATM, the banks said it would be cheaper for the consumer because there would be no attendant needed to make the transaction. WRONG! We now pay huge fees for this service.

Education now sells eBooks. The links to these eBooks now cost the same as a real hard copy book. The student pays less and the publisher invests less.

Just think about it.

Publishers get 80% of the net process. Authors get 10%, maybe a little more if they are a big time author. (Maybe, 5 in the USA).

I published with Prentice Hall for over 25 years. I was told to create a new edition every 3 years to push up the royalties that had been taken by the used book market.

The new wave is to deliver online material that requires an access code. So a used book is now a dead animal but can live on with an access code to the same material online. The access code alone is now the cost of a text book.

Just think, in many European nations education is free.

Go figure.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Music Theory -- The Solution

I agree totally; however there is a solution. Teachers of music theory need to talk. We had three music theory teacher when we developed these courses and we, through discussion, came to consensus on what was important for the student to learn and when it was important to learn it.

Most schools have a single theory teacher working in a vacuum -- going down silly paths.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why theory teachers disagree

One of the things we have finally come to realize is that the fact that a great unified theory of music theory will probably never exist. We have for many years had an online music theory sequence that we taught successfully. Although all the other classes we have developed online seem acceptable to teachers across the nation with only minor personal changes the theory sequence is not so readily accepted. We think this may be for a variety of reasons. Composers are pretty independently secure in their own view of how theory should be taught. In fact, we have met very few theory teachers that do not believe they alone know how theory should be taught. As a result developing a general course of study is close to impossible.

Upon reflection, there seems to be three types of music teacher groups. History and literature teachers value the evolutionary development of music and use theory as a way to develop a method for musical criticism. Composers focus on the mechanisms of theory that support the creation of new musical material. Performers see theory as a tool for performance practice.

These three views of musical study lead to different needs theoretically. Composers might need a study of historical musical practice, even those no longer practiced, e.g. modal counterpoint. History and literature programs value the compositional practice of notable historical periods, e.g. impressionism, expressionism, etc. Performance programs need theory to underpin contemporary musical and stylistic practice, e.g. jazz theory, rock theory, etc.

The theory program of a college seems to develop a theory program that matches the dominant view of musical practice as defined by which of these three musical world views they might hold most dear. Of course there are also hybridization among these world views that would require even more varied theory programs.

For this reason we have decided that a model online theory class is not practical. It may be impossible to develop a class that serves the need of all without being unreasonably overloaded for students. We have found that it is more practical to offer only the tools to build a class somewhere along the continuum of musical world views rather than a fully developed course ready for adoption. It actually comes down to unique class development to match unique personal needs valued by individual instructors. Courses need to be created one at a time to meet the unique needs of each music program.

To do otherwise is spitting in the wind. The fact that there is no great unified theory of music theory may mean music theory is too insulated institutionally to be unified or, inversely, that music theory itself is too robust and complex an abstraction to be reduced to a generalized expression.

This ambiguity is why I love the study of music and perhaps why music might scare those who need specific academic answers.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Health Care

With all the hoopla about insurance reform I wonder how we lost sight of HealthCare.

I don't care about people having insurance as much as I wish that everyone had health care. Insurance just means there is a for profit entity that wants to pull profit from those that need health care.

Single payer buts all this aside. The argument on this last bill was to kill health care and re-establish an insurance based system.

A sad day. But it is something that can now be modified and amended -- hopefully, toward a public option.


Monday, March 01, 2010

Stength of Opinion

I have an opinion, in fact, everyone I know has an opinion. The question is "What is the value of anyone's opinion?" Well mine is important and everyone else -- well, not really.

Let's take the argument of redistribution of the wealth.

My opinion -- it is time to redistribute the wealth to the middle and lower social economic groups.

Their opinion -- Let's keep the status quo -- keep the redistribution of wealth moving to the wealthy.

There, that makes sense.


How about health care.

Their opinion -- we have the greatest health care in the world.

My opinion -- the greatest health care in the world can always be purchased by the wealthy. However, those without health care cannot argue this position.


Their opinion -- status quo. Let the "stupid poor people" go out and get a job and compete.

My Opinion -- The sick and poor are our responsibility. We are blessed with intellect and opportunity. We need to care for those with neither.

It goes on and on. We are all citizens of this great country. Those with wealth are where they are because of this country's dedication to democracy and capitalism. It takes a great government to "share the wealth".

I hate taxes, but I love taxes. Can you go there with me?


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Music Programs Becoming a Thing of the Past

I did the juggling act growing up. The math, English, foreign language, honor roll, the whole bit. Then I came home, did homework, and went to the theatre, piano or voice lessons, or dance class. Then it was home for more homework, sometimes until very late. I did the zero, early and extra period so I could fit in all my college prep. classes and do choir.

I was lucky enough to have supportive parents who told me that they understood that my involvement in the arts meant that my academic grades would not be as high as if I solely focused on school. They supported my involvement in the arts and my passion for music. Yet, they told me that if my grades dropped below a certain point I would have to put the arts on hold to get my grades back up. I never had to quit.

Here I am at the age of 35, with a BA. in music, and after a 9 year Montessori teaching career. Music was put on the back burner so I could teach and make money for the mortgage. I am a firm believer in Montessori and I had a good career working with some wonderful children. Four months ago I quit my job to move out of state for my husband's new job. I'm not bringing in the money right now, but I'm happier doing what I'm doing than I have been in years! I'm in two choirs, giving private voice lessons, composing, and taking violin lessons. I'm spending the hours practicing that I never had the time or energy to do while teaching.

Why is it that music and the arts are thought of as extra and superfluous? You don't see a math major having to spend the same hours on music as I did on math, do you? This is a firm testament to Montessori elementary's Cosmic Education! The Montessori elementary program is focused on giving the child the universe, a little bit of everything. Everything is connected. There's history, language, and math involved in music. In their investigation, they are going to make discoveries that cross the boundaries of every "subject."

Now more and more school districts are eliminating their music and other arts programs. This is so extremely upsetting! It's thought of as unnecessary and belittling to those of us who spend our time and work hard doing music.