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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Simon’

It is hard to believe it has taken my 329 posts to finally have one about Paul Simon. On the occasion of his latest album, In The Blue Light, seemed like the right time.

I should preface this by acknowledging my extreme bias. Paul Simon has been my favourite artist since elementary school. I have grown up with his music and in recent years his concerts have taken me from Oregon to Montana to Nevada.

As has been widely reported, Simon is retiring from touring this month after a final set of concerts in the United States.  And just as he is retiring he has released his latest album. None of the ten songs on his album are actually brand new, they are rather new arrangements of songs (at times including new lyrics) which Simon has described as clarifying these songs, and sharing with the audience works that may have just disappeared (they are not typically in the 50 or so Paul Simon songs one hears on the radio or at concerts) but they have been given new life.

Randy Lewis described the project in the LA Times:

The project constitutes a rare instance of a pop musician engaging in a practice more common for visual artists, who sometimes return to a particular work time and again, adding a new color, shape or texture in the pursuit of some ever-evolving ideal. It’s the polar opposite of one fundamental aspect of recorded music, which freezes songs at a specific moment in time.

This quote, and really this project, got me thinking and connecting to some of what we are trying to do in education.  Listening to Simon talk about the project made me think what he has doing at 76 is what we want students to do with their work in school as teenagers and pre-teenagers.

We really freeze things in time in education.

Assignments are submitted and that is that.  A mark is given and everyone moves on to the next assignment.

I have written before about portfolios, capstones, passion projects and other similar experiences that pull together learning across disciplines and across time.  Another theme that I have also covered is the efforts to make grading less an event and more of an ongoing conversation.  These conversations are about doing what Simon has done with his music – learning does not stop when a song is written or an assignment is submitted, there is great power in the ongoing tinkering.  Teaching students to be curious about re-imagining something they have written before in English, or coded before Digital Arts, or played before in band is really powerful.

I still remember a speech from my first-year History professor.  He said that if we used any parts of essays we submitted in high school for our assignments in his class that was plagiarism and we could receive a zero on the assignment and in the course.  More than twenty-five years later that still strikes me as odd.  There should be a place for taking one‘s work and making it better.  And it was my own work.  There could be great value in redoing an assignment in subsequent years, taking new learning and new perspectives and applying them.

I find with my work on this blog I often take posts I have previously written and re-think them with new perspective and in a new time. When I look at some of the posts I am most proud of, many have been the ones that were published a second-time – they are a little more clear in thinking, a little more thoughtful and better express the message I intended.

If one of the greatest songwriters of our lifetime can find ways to bring greater clarity to his work, it seems we all can.  Hopefully the trends continue and students in our schools will have more of these opportunities of continual refinement.

PS – You can listen to the new Paul Simon Album here for free – well worth it!

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