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Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education


In "The Good Life of Teaching: An Ethics of Professional Practice," Chris Higgins (2011) reminds people that "self-interest and altruism, personal freedom and social roles, and practical wisdom and personhood" have been ancient philosophical topics that remain vitally important in the practice of contemporary teaching and learning. One of the most fundamental questions Higgins raises is this: "How do we reconcile self-regard and concern for others?" Higgins echoes John Dewey's concern for "balancing the distinctive capacity of an individual with his social service." In other words, and educationally speaking: What does it mean to live "the good life" as an educator? And what occurs when educators connect their answer to two related questions: "Why teach?" and "How should I live?" In answering these questions, Higgins combines arguments put forward by MacIntyre, Arendt, Dewey, Gadamer, and others, and considers human flourishing ("eudaimonia"), ethics, and the internal goods of practices--combined concerns that music and music education philosophers often neglect. While Higgins is centrally concerned with the quest for "the good life," he is equally concerned with the idea that "professional ethics should concern the needs, desires, aspirations, and welfare of practitioners themselves." The author is extremely supportive of the general claims of Higgins's detailed and erudite discussion, and she finds quite persuasive his emphasis on the importance of virtue ethics in education. In this essay the author focuses primarily on his claim that ""virtue" ethics...needs teaching as much as teaching needs "virtue" ethics" (italics added, 10). She wishes to proffer sympathetically that additional concepts of selfhood and ethics may have a place in Higgins's project, in discussions of educational ethics, and in ethics for music education. Specifically, the author introduces key themes from the relatively recent fields of "enaction" and "care ethics," explaining what she thinks they might contribute to one's understandings of ethics (and virtue ethics) in music education.

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Published Citation

Silverman, Marissa. 2012. “Virtue Ethics, Care Ethics, and ‘The Good Life of Teaching.’” Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education 11 (2): 96–122.