Reason for despair: The continued dominance of a narrowly “practical” approach at all levels. This is the attitude that says that the exclusive purpose of education is to prepare workers for the labor force. It shows up, among other places, in the overwhelming focus on math and reading in K-12 and the fetishization of STEM fields and universal disparagement of the liberal arts in college. It also underlies the continuing privatization of public education through the promotion of charter schools and other aspects of the “reform” agenda as well as the ongoing defunding of state universities—the idea being that if education serves the purposes of the market, it should be under the control of the market.
Reason for hope: The gathering resistance to this mentality, which I see in the movement for tuition-free, or at least debt-free, public higher education; in the opposition to high-stakes testing in K-12, which has led to the repeal and replacement of No Child Left Behind; and in the proliferation of new alternative educational models. Students (and their parents) are getting tired of being treated like revenue streams and exploitable resources. But whether we will gather sufficient political strength to oust the entrenched interests on the other side is still a very open question.
The Midwest International Clinic in Chicago was great opportunity for recruiting students, meeting educators, visiting arts schools–and networking. In August, 1975, I started my first teaching job at Drake University in Des Moines (1975-83). It was the perfect job in so many ways. I was 22 years-old (about to turn 23) and there were so many wonderful students and faculty colleagues. Jerry Tolson was an upper classman and someone who I admired as a musician, educator and professional (yes, as a student he was a leader and held himself in a mature way–beyond his years). He’s on the faculty at the University of Louisville (lucky them) and it was great to see him again.
One of the things I am most proud of (from my time at LSU (2009-2014) was authoring the large document that requested awarding an honorary doctorate to blues legend Buddy Guy:
I would like to nominate George “Buddy” Guy for a long-overdue honorary Doctorate from the LSU School of Music within the College of Music & Dramatic Arts.
Having recently become aware that this internationally renowned and influential musician once served as an LSU employee, it seems only fitting that he be honored at the May 2013 commencement ceremony. Having worked in what eventually became known as the Office of Facility Services from 1955-57, Mr. Guy went on to become a six-time Grammy Award winning blues guitarist, influencing generations of musicians. He is just the type of distinguished musician that the School of Music would be proud to award with this high academic honor.
Born to a sharecropper family in Lettsworth, La., Buddy Guy worked at LSU during a period that he would not have been allowed to attend the university as a student due to legalized racial segregation at that time. Yet, he has fond memories of his time as an employee, even saying in an interview that when he left in 1958 to pursue a musical career in Chicago, his supervisor told him that he would always have a job here if his musical career didn’t pan out.
But, “pan out” it did as Mr. Guy quickly established himself as one of Chicago’s greatest bluesmen and a hero to multiple generations of guitarists such as Eric Clapton, who inducted Guy into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 along with B.B. King, to John Mayer. Guy has earned multiple honors throughout his decades in music. In 2008, he was named to the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. In December 2012, he received the Kennedy Center honor along with Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman, Emmy Award winner David Letterman, and the iconic musical group Led Zepplin.