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A Discussion of the Concept of the ‘whole Child’ in Context and the Relevance of Music Education in Its Development

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A Discussion of the Concept of the ‘whole Child’ in Context and the Relevance of Music Education in Its Development



The General concept of the whole child has been a topic of debate for far longer than the existences of a national curriculum. Some of the earliest examination into the concept of the best overall approaches to the education of the whole child stem from the work of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746 - 1827), a Swiss teacher and educational reformer whose compassion for all pupils led to developments in the modern consensus of pedagogy is perceived and best practised. The following quote from William H. Kilpatrick in his introduction to Heinrich Pestalozzi (1951) is a general overview yet its relationship to the curriculum today and the whole child concept presents much relevance.

1. Personality is sacred. This constitutes the 'inner dignity of each individual for the young as truly as for the adult.

2. As 'a little seed... contains the design of the tree', so in each child is the promise of his potentiality. 'The educator only takes care that no untoward influence shall disturb nature's march of developments'.

3. Love of those we would educate is 'the sole and everlasting foundation' in which to work. 'Without love, neither the physical not the intellectual powers will develop naturally'. So kindness ruled in Pestalozzi's schools: he abolished flogging - much to the amazement of outsiders.

4. To get rid of the 'verbosity' of meaningless words Pestalozzi developed his doctrine of Anschauung - direct concrete observation, often inadequately called 'sense perception' or 'object lessons'. No word was to be used for any purpose until adequate Anschauung had preceded. The thing or distinction must be felt or observed in the concrete. Pestalozzi's followers developed various sayings from this: from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex, from the concrete to the abstract.

5. To perfect the perception got by the Anschauung the thing that must be named, an appropriate action must follow. 'A man learns by action... have done with [mere] words!' 'Life shapes us and the life that shapes us is not a matter of words but action'.

6. Out of this demand for action came an emphasis on repetition - not blind repetition, but repetition of action following the Anschauung. (Smith, 1997)

The above list could easily be perceived as an archaic piece of discourse that suffers greatly from the lack of development in its field yet there are interesting considerations to be taken from it especially when thinking about the benefits of music education. The first point of personality is such an important role and an art subject such as music allows such expression of personality that can be more difficult to find in more conventional subjects such as mathematics or science. The overall feel of the writing leans towards and emphasis of empathy towards the student and their emotional needs, which is one of the most essential factors in all three of the curriculum areas of Appraising, Performing and Composing.

Conventional wisdom and general opinion tends to lean support towards the positive effects of music on a child’s development educationally. That being a concept of music making children more academic (The Mozart effect is a common misperception here) and the promotion of team working and self-confidence through activities such as group performance are common examples of these.

When examining the arguments for music education and its relevance in the National Curriculum it is quite easy diverge into a lengthy discussion regarding the actual concept of the whole child and to putting the label into context so to speak, it is important to establish the effects of many defining factors that contribute to the music departments ability to establish a positive effect on the child’s complete academic and outer school life.

An interesting example of this is the content of the actual curriculum itself in respect to the actual syllabus itself. To give a good example of this, if we take the GCSE syllabus from now and as recent as six years ago, the relevance of material to a child is far greater and much more rewarding for their continuous development as a member of society, teaching them cultural appreciation on a level that they can relate to, as music scholars we are all too aware of the somewhat overpowering negative effects of a syllabus which involves nothing but classical and traditional musical forms and the benefits of addressing musical styles that are in the popular trend allow a wider audience to understand and perceive musical education through

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