Daniel Barenboim Recommends Five Actions to Change the Future by Changing the Curriculum in Public Schools

There is so much that can be done, quickly too! The mantra at Garn Press is that we can change the future by changing the policies and mandates that dictate how and what children are taught in public schools.

At Garn we refuse to accept the pessimism of the professional thought shapers who fill their pockets while filling us with doom and gloom. We don’t need the PR sound bites of politicians who move hesitantly into the future, falling over the words that have been bought to keep them in office or win the next campaign.

The question we ask is: Where are the thought leaders? Whether you agree with him or not, Noam Chomsky is a global thought leader who holds politicians accountable with his intellectual treatises on The Manufacturing of Consent and The Hegemony of Survival. But while Chomsky is a great thinker he is not a great doer, and he often states it is up to us to act — that collectively people have the power to change the future of the world.

This leads to the next question that we ask at Garn, which is: Where are the great thinkers who are also great doers? Thinking without doing is no longer enough. We need great thought leaders who are taking action and leading in these troubled times. We have to look hard to find them, but they are here for us to learn from as we seek actionable knowledge to take back the future from the PR world of the pathological thought shapers who are deadening the world.

One of the global thinkers and doers taking action is the great maestro, Daniel Barenboim. Making music an essential part of social life has been a key goal of Daniel Barenboim, and in this video he clearly articulates the importance of music in the lives of young children as well as in their thinking and doing in later life.

“I deeply believe in the greater importance of music and it’s ability to influence and shape who we are as human beings,” Barenboim says.

Barenboim talks about the orchestra, the West-Eastern Divan, which he founded with Edward Said. He states from the outset the focus of workshops and seminars has been a comprehensive one, in that the focus is on understanding what it means to listen to each other, both as musicians and as human beings.

Daniel Barenboim’s Edward W. Said Lecture (2015)

(video starts at 12:50, runs to 20:00)

Action One: Make schools social spaces where children can learn to listen to one another.

“Learning to listen in that way sensitizes us both for ourselves and the world around us,” Barenboim says. “The imperative word here however is learning.”

Action Two: Make schools social and intellectual spaces where music instruction is central to the curriculum.

“Basic education in music is the essential prerequisite,” Barenboim states. “Sadly music instruction in schools everywhere has decreased sharply over recent decades to an extent that an alarming percentage of children and teenagers get little or no music education whatsoever.”

Action Three: Music should be part of the core curriculum along with mathematics, literature, science, and foreign languages

“A basic knowledge of music always used to be considered part of a well rounded education,” Barenboim says, “just like a basic knowledge of literature or mathematics.”

Barenboim states the big reason for music to be central to the school curriculum is that it can be instrumental in improving people’s quality of life.  He quotes Antonio Demasio on the implication that systematic exposure to music positively affects the development of the brain, and is therefore extremely important for the neural maturation processes, which are associated with sociability, general perceptiveness, and intelligence.

Action Four: Music and philosophy should co-exist in the school curriculum so that children learn that human beings can have different emotional experiences simultaneously

“That would be inconceivable without music,” Barenboim says. “In and through music grief and joy for example, or loneliness and sociability, can co-exist. Music can mean different things for people and even different things for the same person at different times.”

“This kind of contrapuntal experience is important for human existence,” he states, “but would not be possible to the same extent if we did not have music.”

Action Five: Music should function as a way to overcome social barriers to the communal experience that is integral to the public school curriculum

Barenboim talks of the Israeli and Palestinian orchestra that he founded with Edward Said.  “The young musicians listen as a group and make music as a group even in a very delicate and tricky social context. In the process they have succeeded in overcoming supposed barriers. Music has taught them not only the possibility but the necessity to listen to other voices, voices that are contrapuntal. This in a certain way is more important than the fundamental democratic right to vote.”

“In music every voice has a responsibility towards the other in speed, in dynamics, and in intensity. The difference between just producing beautiful sound and making music is that the latter means striving to create an organic whole of all the different elements, of oneness, not allowing any separation from the context.”

Where’s the Hope?

Contrast Daniel Barenboim’s egalitarian vision for humanity with the myopic meanness of anti-people pro-business actions of the U.S. Congress. Compare his recommendations for the education of children with the lock step curriculum and high stakes testing mandates of power brokers who control public education in the U.S. and the pathology of pro-business model of the education reform movement is revealed. In this climate hope lies with the parents and teachers who are resisting the corporatization of the public education system. Along with Daniel Barenboim they are the great thought leaders and great doers of our time.


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