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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ridiculous question

Recently, the national education authority (‘onderwijsinspectie’) assessed the level of arts education in the Netherlands. I am not going to say anything about their findings, apart from the fact that they were not very positive. What I do want to say samething about, however, is how the national education authority thinks it can assess the level of arts education.

Children were asked, in the ‘knowledge assessment’, subtheme ‘own valuation’, the following question after hearing an unspecified music example (C.P.E. Bach? Martin Garrix?):

“Which word fits the music fragment?
a. solemn
b. rough
c. calm
d. boring
e. gloomy
f. cool
g. wild
h. happy
i. another word:
j. I don’t know
Why does this word fit the music fragment?”

The national education authority report has been criticized by many for various reasons. For example, methodological questions were asked about how they compare the findings of this report with the ones of the last report, dating 10 years back.

Those questions were all good and fine. But there is another question which seems more important to me. It has to do with the ‘whats’ and the ‘whys’  of arts education, not with the ‘hows’ – with those questions we usually tend to forget because we are interested more in measuring the mechanics of didactics than in pondering the philosophies of pedagogics.

The question is: what on earth makes us think that by asking those kind of questions we can really say something about the ‘level’ of arts education? What exactly does the authority think ‘level’ is, or even 'education'? What does this tell us about the ways we - our society - apparently think about the added value of arts education in primary schools to the lives of our children?

The outrageous ridicule of ‘measuring’ ‘knowledge' by those kinds of ‘questions’ is, basically, an insult to anyone who still hopes that arts education has something meaningful to offer.

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