OECD Director on Symbolism of Japanese School Band

For 50 years, the Paris-based organization OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has offered research-based recommendations to governments that now include 34 member countries. OECD is a particularly important institution in the field of international-comparative education.

About one week ago, the organization’s Director for Education began her report from Japan as follows:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lessons in Learning, Amid the Rubble

by Barbara Ischinger, Director for Education

A school band played for us. It was the best school band I’ve ever heard—and I’ve heard many. It was the true image of hope, team spirit and positive attitudes. For the students, it was the welcome experience of normality. A brass band playing in the midst of vast devastation; a landscape that reminded me of street scenes from my childhood in Germany after the war. But this was just one week ago, in Japan, during a visit to the area torn apart by the earthquake and tsunami a year ago today. I went there to participate in the launch of the Japan edition . . .

Click here for further details from the OECD-Japan report:


I mentioned this OECD report during my recent guest lecture for the Japan Studies programme at University of Bergen.

Here is a link to a description of my book on the impressive tradition of school bands in Japan:



Music and Philosophy Conference 2012

The 2012 meeting of the Royal Musical Association’s Music and Philosophy Study Group will be held at King’s College, London, on July 20-21. I plan to attend the conference (which was quite interesting last year, when I chaired the session on Asian music), and the paper I will present this year is entitled "On the Ethical Dimensions of Patriotic Music".

Click here for more information on the RMA Music and Philosophy conference:



New NAfME President Seeks to Restore Trust

According to a recent press release, Professor Glenn Nierman has been elected President of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME, formerly MENC), which for more than a century has been the most influential American organization for music education. Dr. Nierman is a full Professor at University of Nebraska who is internationally active as a scholar and practitioner in the field of music teacher education.

According to Professor Nierman’s statement, "We must focus on a vision grounded in a framework of trust within all levels of the organization. Building this trust should be NAfME's continuing primary goal for the future.”

It is quite encouraging that Professor Nierman candidly acknowledges the extent to which NAfME’s predecessor MENC had lost the trust of many music educators in the USA and elsewhere across recent years. Under Professor Nierman’s guidance we may be hopeful that credibility, relevance, and even enthusiasm will be restored, and the interests of music teachers and students effectively represented.

Click HERE for further details.

Tohoku Earthquake Poems

Below are some verses I wrote recently for Japanese friends on the anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake:


The pristine elegance

of hollow reeds

Carved with patience

by loving hands

Within focus

he resonates

a distant world

Ichi on jobutsu

-David Hebert

For Koji, on the one-year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake.

To Heroism

The lengthiest epic

could never contain

Multitude gratitudes

seem merely stoic

All virtues are summed

in one small refrain:

“Hiro is simply heroic!”

-David Hebert

For Hiro, on the one-year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake.

Disorienting Distance

Beside Kamogawa was the heaven I lost

While a young dreamer bursting ambition

Whirling about years across dizzying world

Pressing each drop of joy from this persimmon

Hazarding the very deepest and gentlest of souls

Muriko means hopeless girl, but I dropped her hope

Like a broken spade

in our garden with no chrysanthemums

Disorienting distance takes its toll

leaving no final refuge

Such is the cost to cross the Kamogawa they say

Even for the boldest and noblest of companions

Even the truest and kindest of friends

Sages warn hell revolves on the other side

-David Hebert

For Mitsuko, on the one-year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake.


International Comparisons in the Improvement of Education

Below is the abstract for my Keynote Speech, “International Comparisons in the Improvement of Education,” which will be presented by invitation at the Sixth International Scientific Conference: Theory for Practice in the Education of Contemporary Society, Riga Teacher Training and Education Management Academy [Riga, Latvia] (March 29-31, 2012) [http://www.rpiva.lv/index.php?mh=teorija_praksei].

Imperfections – such as inequality and inefficiency of learning – are perennial problems for education despite a diversity of foundations on which national systems are established, which range from the idealistic vision of fostering a utopian society to the utilitarian objective of producing skilled workers capable of engendering economic growth. Despite sharing many common conditions and fundamental values, educators rarely learn valuable lessons from the successes and failures of highly relevant initiatives in distant nations. This problem may be attributed to several factors, not the least of which includes the entrenchment of local traditions and ethnocentric assumptions, but surely the quality and relevance of international-comparative research – and the way its results are disseminated – are issues that must also be taken into careful consideration. What are the unique lessons to be learned from international comparisons, and what are the prospective risks for how such comparisons may be misinterpreted and misused in educational settings? How can international comparative research be made more relevant, with tangible applications that may be recognized and effectively used by school teachers? How can international comparative education meaningfully examine subjects beyond the reach of standardized testing, in such domains as the fostering of creativity, talent, and ethical sensibilities, for example? These themes will be presented through discussion of both research findings and anecdotes from the personal experience of working for universities on four continents. Specific topics will include the challenges of accounting for conceptual equivalency and representing cultural differences, sampling and generalizability, reconciling the diverging aims of economic, anthropological, sociological, and psychological research, as well as grappling with the ambivalent discourse of globalization, multiculturalism, post-colonialism, and other social movements.

Click HERE to access a conference programme.