23 Feb 2011

Sample Essay: Jack Kerouac and Miles Davis: Self Motivated Egotists or Voice for the Times?


The Post-War era in the United States gave rise to a counterculture called Beat Generation.  Strictly speaking, the beat generation was for a group of writers who emerged in the 1950s that included Jack Kerouac.  An expanded definition would include other artists, such as musician Miles Davies, who influenced how music became a high art form.  In essence, it was a literary movement that later evolved to include changing attitudes and perspectives in people (Crystal).  This counterculture movement was born out of disgust for the consumerism that gripped society after the war.  People had more money to buy things they did not use to need, which had worsen over time (Belden).  The rise of the American middle class reshaped the landscape and put values on newer things.  The beatniks, as how people who followed this bohemian lifestyle were called, were often associated with “crime, delinquency, immorality, and amorality” (Parkins).  However, for the beatniks, they simply followed a lifestyle that was characterized by liberation of the spiritual and sexual selves while demystifying the use of drugs.  The beat generation revolutionized art, music, and writing in post-war America.  These mediums expressed protest against the middle-class culture that was prevalent during this period.

Kerouac and Davis had been among the most influential in their own forms of art.  Kerouac created influence through his books, such as On the Road, Visions of Cody, and The Remembrance of Things Past (Clark 103).  Both of these artists had their own shares of criticisms, Kerouac in particular for the way he brandished his lifestyle in the books he wrote.  Criticisms against Davis were mostly targeted on his temperamental and demanding nature (Advameg).  Despite the negative things written about these two artists, it cannot be denied that they were truly influential in reshaping arts and culture during their time.  Kerouac and Davis were not self-egotists but voices of their times.  Davis made it possible to resurrect Jazz in its pure form and elevate it to high art; Kerouac epitomized the bohemian life and the weariness that came to people who lived in a world that was focused on materialism.

Miles Davis

Miles Davis became a voice of the time because he was able to use his talent not only for self-fulfillment but to separate from what was in fashion in the musical industry.  Rather than become just another member of a bebop band, Davis rose into prominence by innovating and developing new musical styles between the 1950s and the 1990s.  He led the way in changing the musical landscape through his own “lyrical, introspective, and melodic style,” as well as through his recordings and choices of collaborators.  Jazz evolved because Davis pushed it forward (All About Jazz).

Davis was born in Alton, Illinois on 25 May 1926 to a middle-class family.  He began to play the trumpet at 15, and was a professional musician only two years after.  It was in 1947 to 1948 that Davis rose to fame as a member of Charlie Parker’s bebop group.  But he left the group to restore the more melodic elements of jazz.  Davis participated in a project with arranger Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, and Johnny Carisi.  This resulted to the release of Birth of the Cool in 1949, which was also the birth of the West Coast jazz school.

His career almost came to halt because of his addiction in the 1950s.  Fortunately, he was able to bounce back to record solo hits, such as “Airegin,” “Doxy,” “Oleo,” and “But Not for Me.”  He formed the most celebrated quintet in 1955, which dominated the jazz scene until the 1960s (Advameg).  The quintet disbanded, and Davis formed a sextet in 1964.

Davis recorded Kind of Blue in 1959, which showed his innovativeness in creating music.  Kind of Blue was a jazz improvisation that has an elegantly simple and resoundingly beautiful sound (Teichroew).  This record featured musicians, John Coltrane, Cannoball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, Wynton Kelly, and Bill Evans, who were also part of the quintet.  Kind of Blue was important because it established modal jazz.  It was endowed with a “mysterious tension” with a shocking but not unpleasant simplicity (Teichroew).

The collaborations that Davis engaged in with his fellow musicians showed that he was not self-centered or merely acting out his egotism.  He wanted to create a new brand of music that would better appeal to his sense of artistry.  Perhaps this attitude was shared by others during this time because they were able to appreciate what Davis had done to music.  The music industry was likely looking for something in music to elevate it to greater depths.  Despite his temperamental side, Davis was regarded even during his time as a genius in his craft.  This kind of acknowledgement would not be lightly given to people who did not deserve it.  Being difficult to work with sometimes is often attributed as an artistic quality.  Davis then can be excused for this weakness in light of his influence in the music industry.

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac became the official voice of the beat generation through his writings, which chronicled his unconventional lifestyle and work.  Like the other beatniks, he shied away from conventional mentality through the study of Eastern religions, use of drugs, and sexual liberation.  It can be said that Davis’ experimentation with music and his desire to separate from bebop was influenced by Kerouac’s writings (Parkins).

Kerouac epitomized what it was to be a beatnik writer.  He has lived what he has written.  This means that he travelled extensively in order to transcend from the humdrum of existence (Johnson 131).  “The only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time,” Kerouac said in his book On the Road (Kerouac 30).  Kerouac’s travels and experiences have become his own subjects in his books, revealing what the beat generation was all about.  His kind of writing and his lifestyle ultimately made him an icon of the era.  One Road has catapulted him to fame, even if he did not get rich for that book.  From the conventional section of society, the book was superficially accepted.  Some called it off-beat, pleasurable, or intriguing.  To the beatniks, however, it was their essence that was described in its pages (Millstein 27).

Kerouac was Canadian-American, being born in Massachusetts of Canadian parents.  He lived a life of conventionality until an injury during his football years introduced him to Celine and Shakespeare.  Since then, he never went back (Johnson 129).  During the 1950s, he became associated with other beatniks, particularly Allen Ginsberg.  He was always observing and writing about things and people in his environment.  Kerouac, however, was often attacked by anxieties and fears about his personal life.  He was assailed with doubts about the wisdom of writing his thoughts and hoping to make a living out of it, especially that he has a mother to support.  His family and relatives all thought that he should get a job in order to help provide for the family (Clark 106).

In other words, Kerouac did not have a very supportive environment when he was just starting out.  Still, he kept on despite pressures from his family to lead a more stable lifestyle. Other artists would have surrendered in the face of difficulties and extreme pressure from family and relatives.  This kind of attitude cannot be considered an expression of egotism.  As an artist, Kerouac was convinced that he was doing the right thing (Clark 106).  His defiance and his persistence to lead the life that felt right for him became the reason why he became an icon or the voice of the beat generation.  There were many people who did not like what they were seeing society after the war and tried to show their protest by living lives that opposed conventions and expectations.  Kerouac, in opposing materialism and consumerism, reduced his needs to a knapsack, sleeping bag, notebook, and pen (Johnson 131).  Joyce Johnson herself found it “heartbreaking beautiful” to see how a man could reduce his needs to necessities (131).  Other beatniks were also profoundly influenced by Kerouac even if mainstream America had not liked the values espoused in his writings.

Conclusion

Both Kerouac and Davis were not egotists who only acted for self-gratification.  Instead, they were real voices of their times.  Kerouac changed not only writing conventions but essentially the way of life.  Davis refused to succumb to what was popular and instead sought to find the kind of music that would please him as an artist.  These two people have been in the midst of the counterculture that opposed the consumerism that was taking root in America.  They opposed the buying frenzy that equated happiness with material possession.  Kerouac, in particular, was brave enough to pursue a path that lacked support from his family.  His steadfastness to an ideal has rightly placed him as an icon of the 1950s.

Works Cited

Belden, Joshua.  “Consumerism in American Society.”  2010.  Ezine Articles.  15 December

2010 <http://ezinearticles.com/?Consumerism-in-American-Society&id=3571337>

Clark, Tom.  Jack Kerouac: A Biography.  New York, NY: Thunder Mouth’s Press, 1984.

Crystal, Gary.  “What Was the Beat Generation?”  2010.  wiseGEEK.  15 December 2010

<http://www.wisegeek.com/what-was-the-beat-generation.htm>

Johnson, Joyce. A Beat Memoir.  USA: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.

Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. USA: Penguin Group, 2007.

“Miles Davis.”  2010.  Advameg.  15 December 2010 <http://www.notablebiographies.com/

Co-Da/Davis-Miles.html>

“Miles Davis: Biography.”  2010.  All About Jazz.  15 December 2010

<http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=6144>

Millstein, Gilbert.  “Books of the Time.”  New York Times, p. 27.  ProQuest Historical

Newspapers.

Parkins, Keith.  “Jack Kerouac.”  2005.  15 December 2010 <http://home.clara.net/

heureka/art/kerouac.htm>

Teichroew, Jacob.  “Album Review: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.  About.com: Jazz. 15

December 2010 <http://jazz.about.com/od/classicalbums/fr/KindofBlue.htm>

Filed under: Sample essays — Tags: , , , — admin @ 2:32 pm

04 Oct 2009

Simple Essay: Classroom Management

Rogoff et al., (1996) believes that children can develop their thinking as they participate in cultural activity with the guidance and challenge of their teachers, parents and friends. Children could benefit through learning as an apprenticeship; a social activity that is mediated by parents and peers who support and challenge their child’s understanding and skills. She argues that cognitive development involves much more than the accumulation of skills and knowledge. Cognitive development is better characterized as the growing sophistication with which a child employs cognitive processes such as thinking, remembering, and perceiving in his or her collaborations with the other children and teachers who share in the learning process at school. In other words, learning can be a process of ‘guided participation’ shared between the child and others in contexts of participation. Guided participation helps bridge the varying perspectives and thought process among the more and less experienced participants, and helps in involving every student in class activities (Rogoff et al., 1996).

Classroom management and managing students are skills which teachers acquire and hone over time. There are no short-cuts and teachers must learn to master this art through years of experience. The topic of classroom management has been researched by many and quite a few methods and ideas have been solicited. However, unless a teacher develops the ideal teaching skills in managing the myriad of tasks and situations that occur in the classroom each day, they will find teaching difficult and monotonous. Effective classroom management is central to teaching and it requires patience, common sense, consistency, a sense of fairness, dedication and courage. Since this practice mandates imparting training, teachers need to understand the psychological and developmental levels of their students. Now this may sound simple, but the fact remains that not all students have the same level of intelligence, and so teachers have to dedicate and teach their students in a manner that reaches out to them. In a classroom, teachers come face to face with varying challenges, be it intellectual or behavioral, and to manage such a situation requires them to portray a sense of amusement, understanding, caring and belonging. It is here that the qualities of consistent practice, patience, and willingness to learn from mistakes, bring effective classroom management into play. Sadly, this is often easier said than done. The problem lies not in the methodology, but in the unpredictability. No two classes are similar, and not two students are alike, and therefore there can be no standards to impart learning strategies. This presents a Herculean task for teachers as they have to adjust and implement programs that change with each situation. As mentioned above, personal experience and research has illustrated the magnanimity associated with teaching under testing times. Teachers, especially those who begin their career, have difficulty in managing their classrooms. While there are no fool-proof solutions to problems or classroom setting, the following principles may be helpful in bringing about a more controllable situation to classroom management:

Room Arrangement

Setting Expectations for Behavior

Managing Student Academic Work

Managing Inappropriate Behavior

Promoting Appropriate us of Consequences (Kizlik, 2008).

Teachers need to understand the difference between teaching and learning. Teaching is just about what all teachers do in their class, but learning is the process through which students get to know what is being taught. This is where motivation comes into play. Unless teachers can motivate their students to learn, the whole exercise in class is lost. Students need to be educated and for that, they need to develop the art of learning with pleasure and fun. Teachers can observe the students in class and recognize what actually motivates these kids to studying and behaving properly. Classroom management is not just about teaching and learning, but also about conducting oneself with dignity. When it comes to teaching, children learn best:

When they take responsibility of learning on their own

When they become actively involved in what they are learning

When learning becomes interesting and is interactive

When they see themselves as successful learners (Watkins et al., 2007, p.4)

This is why teachers must ensure that their topic is stimulating and enduring, and has enough substance to make it worth the effort. What must be understood is that teachers need to continuously evaluate their amendments, shift their strategy often, and pay more attention to a few children who are weak, or redefine their teaching procedure to make it worthwhile. But this does not mean that a teacher can abruptly terminate a subject or topic without careful consideration, the teacher must be able to create an interest in whatever he/she does to impress the students to follow. In hindsight, the move should elicit a positive response from their wards and make learning an interesting art. The following points show what may be necessary to instigate participation from students in classrooms:

creativity

contextualization

realism

flexibility

rigor

illumination

Creativity allows teachers to choose a topic which is intriguing and challenging and has scope to allow students to participate in it actively.

Contextualization allows the teacher the freedom to plan their modus operandi; allowing teachers to identify the possible plan of action wherein they are at liberty to identify the student (s) who are to be targeted, and the classroom setting to draw more interaction. This way, the classroom session becomes interactive and the teacher will have full control of the class.

Realism allows the teacher to gauge the needs of the class and plan a program accordingly to avoid pressure to perform.

Flexibility as the word says, is allowing the teacher the power to respond to unforeseen circumstances; for all said and done, there is always the possibility of a plan going haywire, which could lead to the disruption of classes. If by chance some teachers find their students tired or restless, they should see this as a sign of lack of attention or interest and push on with other activities that will generate interest.

Rigor refers to the scrutiny of the plan. Whatever the motive or result of one’s action, a teacher will have to measure his/her initiative against its reliability and validity at all stages of its implementation before making recommendations.

Illumination of the practice will allow the teacher to judge his/her theory and make changes if necessary, to make the exercise most productive (Macintyre, 2000).

References

Rogoff, Barbara, Matusov, Eugene and White, Cynthia, 1996, Models of Teaching and Learning:

Participation in a Community of Learners, Oxford, Blackwell, UK, http://java.cs.vt.edu/public/classes/communities/readings/Rogoff,Matusov-1996.pdf

Kizlik, Robert Dr., 2008, ADPRIMA: Classroom Management, Management of Student Conduct, Effective Praise Guidelines, and a Few Things to Know About ESOL Thrown in for Good Measure, http://www.adprima.com/managing.htm

Macintyre, Christine, 2000, The Art of Action Research in the Classroom, David Fulton Publishers Ltd, London

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