Philosophy for Children: Introduction to 20th Century Music

By: Angie Mullins


During Grade 10, music students study the four main eras of music history: Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Twentieth Century.

The musical set works we study during the first three eras are relatively accessible, but the Twentieth Century set works are incredibly challenging on a conceptual basis. These set works range from pieces of absolute serialism to a piece consisting entirely of silence.

I have found, in the past, that the students find these works far more accessible if they have an understanding of the social climate at the time of composition.

This year I chose to incorporate the P4C methodology into this section of work. I assigned each of my five students one of the following topics:

  • Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity
  • Pablo Picasso and the Reinvention of Perspective
  • Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalysis
  • Friedrich Nietzsche and Nihilism
  • 38 Million Corpses and World War I

Students were asked to comment on how these topics caused a sense of instability in the early 1900s.

Each student did a 10 to 15 minute presentation on their topic which served as the stimulus for a philosophical enquiry. The questions that were formulated and selected from these stimuli were:

  • Does time really exist?
  • How green is that tree?
  • If more people were crazy would sane people be institutionalized?
  • To what extent is religion constructed through culture and society?
  • How many lives are ‘too many’ to sacrifice for the greater good?

While this method has meant that I was not able to spend as much time analyzing the actual music as I have in previous years, I feel that my students have gained an in depth understanding of the climate of instability that was present at this time and are thus able to approach all of the music of this era with a greater sense of appreciation and discernment.


Celebrating Unity in Diversity

On 28 September 2016, Grade 4N celebrated Unity in Diversity.

(By Mrs Shaan Naidoo – Grade 4N Class Teacher)

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South Africa is a fruit salad. That is, we come from different cultural backgrounds, follow different religious practices, think differently, speak different languages, celebrate our rites of passage according to our ethnic or religious roots and have our own different dietary laws, dress codes and cultural taboos. Yet, we attend school together; conduct business with people from all walks of life and we celebrate our humanity together.

Sometimes, though, without knowing it, we may offend the very same people with whom we wish to cooperate or include in our business or social dealings because we are ignorant about their social or religious or other customs.

At our special class assembly, the Grade 4Ns made it their aim to inform their audience about the significance of different festivals like the Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Eid, Rosh Hashana, Diwali and Christmas. They also highlighted all the similarities in our festivals, clearly showing that although we are different in so many ways, we are also alike in so many ways. This is because we are all connected as a nation, and our infinite variety makes us truly unique.

I applaud my class on an outstanding performance! Well done, my STARS!