Music education for the 21st century: Epistemology and ontology as bases for student aesthetic education.


  • José Luis Aróstegui University of Granada
  • Robert Stake University of Illinois
  • Helen Simons University of Southampton



We seek to understand why persons develop their musical preferences by identifying with a particular cultural group and social background. This identification is greatly shaped by experience in their environment. Resources employed for this identification are mostly different from those employed in schools to foster academic knowledge. We argue that there needs to be renewed attention to the epistemological and ontological bases of education to examine how we can most effectively educate for the 21st Century in a relativistic and globalized world. Our focus is on music education but with the entire curriculum near at hand, together seeking to bring about a better intellectual, sociological, and aesthetic process of education. Our interest in music stems from a perceived necessity that persons trained in the arts will have special answers to the challenges of this so-called postmodern world. We offer: (1) elements of epistemology, discussing how education and music education have traditionally been focused on propositional rather than interpretive knowledge; (2) a particular perspective on ontology, making evident the ways that individuals construct meanings, interacting with their cultural environment in the shaping of social identity; and (3) the need, today more than ever, for a music curriculum fostering aesthetic experiences that develop interpretive understanding of reality and personal self. Characteristics of postmodernism in cultural studies will be employed throughout the paper.


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Author Biographies

José Luis Aróstegui, University of Granada

José Luis Aróstegui is a faculty member in the Department of Music Education at the University of Granada, Spain. His formal training is in Western classical music, education and qualitative research. During 2001-1003, he held a postdoctoral fellowship sponsored by the Ministry of Education of Spain at CIRCE, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has presented papers at a number of international conferences (AERA, ISME, AEA) and published articles in such journals as Revista de Educación, Aula de Innovación Educativa (in Spanish), International Journal of Music Education (in English) and Em Pauta (in Portuguese). His most recent publication is an edited book, The social context of music education, published by CIRCE. José Luis Aróstegui has recently been appointed by the Europe Aid Co-operation Office of the European Commission to co-ordinate, on behalf of the University of Granada, a major evaluation of Music Teacher Education Programmes. He was also recently appointed to serve as a member of the Editorial Committee of the International Journal of Music Education.

Robert Stake, University of Illinois

Robert Stake is emeritus professor of education and director of the Center for Instructional Research and Curriculum Evaluation at the University of Illinois. Since 1963, he has been a specialist in the evaluation of educational programs, calling his work responsive evaluation, and relying on case study research methods. Among the evaluative studies directed were: works in science and mathematics in elementary and secondary schools (Case Studies in Science Education), model programs and conventional teaching of the arts in schools, development of teaching with sensitivity to gender equity; education of teachers for the deaf and for youth in transition from school to work settings, environmental education and special programs for gifted students, the reform of urban education, and training for various agencies such as the Veterans Administration. Stake has authored Quieting Reform, a book on Charles Murray’s evaluation of Cities-in-Schools; two books on methodology, Evaluating the Arts in Education and The Art of Case Study Research; and Custom and Cherishing, a book with Liora Bresler and Linda Mabry on teaching the arts in ordinary elementary school classrooms in America. Recently he led a multi-year evaluation study of the Chicago Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science. For his evaluation work, in 1988, he received the Lazarsfeld Award from the American Evaluation Association and, in 1994, an honorary doctorate from the University of Uppsala.

Helen Simons, University of Southampton

Helen Simons is Professor of Education and Evaluation at the University of Southampton, UK, where she specializes in programme, policy and institutional self-evaluation and the teaching of evaluation. Her pedagogical and evaluation practices embrace democratic and participatory values and humanistic approaches, such as narrative, case study, portrayal and arts-based inquiry. She integrates creative arts in her teaching and evaluates her doctoral programmes using the creative arts. She is currently a trustee of Artswork, an independent youth arts development agency, committed to developing creative opportunities for young people age 12-35. Her publications are in the field of evaluation, research ethics, professional development and change.




How to Cite

Aróstegui, J. L. ., Stake, R., & Simons, H. (2004). Music education for the 21st century: Epistemology and ontology as bases for student aesthetic education. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12, 54.