Aesthetics of Silence by Susan Sontag

By Susan Sontag

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The ancient Greek notion of paideia (Jaeger, 1943–1945), the ideal of an educated and cultured citizen, has been rearticulated and defended in our time by writers such as Martha Nussbaum (1997) and applied to educational thought and practice by Mortimer Adler (1982, 1983, 1984), among others. Justice is premised on the reality of pervasive evil-doing, inhumanity, and incivility, and the imperative to delimit and redress them insofar as possible. It both prompts right-doing and punishes evil-doing.

In education, distributive justice has been thought of in terms of rights to schooling (Levine & Bane, 1975). For example, in music education, distributive justice refers to the imperative of ensuring that music education is available equitably and that particular individuals or minorities are not disadvantaged or excluded from instruction. Such a position would require working with students who differ, often markedly, in language, ethnicity, family background, social class, musicality, and musical experience and forging music programs that ensure the benefits of music education irrespective of these differences.

These types overlap, resonate with, and conflict with others. If one accepts that each frame contributes to the richness and ambiguity of the notion of social justice as it applies to music education, it becomes necessary to adjudicate the claims of these various perspectives. All have to do with aspects of human rights. The claim that human rights trump other cultural rights is a false dichotomy. One’s imagination is shot through with socially and culturally ingrained understandings that shape one’s perceptions of the possibilities of human rights.

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