In the fourteenth and final chapter of From the Stage to the Studio, Watkins and Scott suggest that teaching is far more than a one time transaction of attention and information. Every teaching moment has ramifications in the musical life of a student, the health of a teacher’s career, and the music community. Scott and Watkins even push us to think bigger about the function of teaching in society by including a quote from Lee Iacocca.
“In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have.”
This sense of responsibility, or purposefulness to serve a greater community is something I’m studying extensively this semester in Peacemaking Rhetoric with Dr. Rasha Diab. Martin Buber in Between Man and Man theorized that human interaction can be understood through two distinct relationships: “I-Thou” and “I-It.” The I-It relationship is characterized by indifference to the other, and facilitates the use of another to serve one’s own interests. In the I-Thou relationship, however, members believe that through the relationship they become wholly realized. In essence, someone thinking with an “It” world view sees everything beyond themselves as a thing, an “other,” while someone thinking “Thou,” considers themselves relationally as part of a whole.
It is in my study of peaceful rhetoric that I am beginning to be able to name the peacemaking potential of music. Yes competition can be fierce, attitudes toxic, and some teachers downright violent. But if we operate with the I-Thou mentality, as Watkins and Scott suggest, by thinking of ourselves as members of a community, as responsible for every aspect of what we do and say, and loyally bound to do good for our students then we are really promoting peace and working for the good of humanity.
This post is one in a series of concise reflections on Laurie Scott and Cornelia Watkins’ From the Stage to the Studio: How Fine Musicians Become Great Teachers. Find other reflections here.