‘…that by which…’

by Dr. Fleurette Sweeney

March 2017

In 1946 during my first year of undergraduate studies, I took my very first course in philosophy. How I loved that course! Yet for all my enthusiasm at the time only two precise memories remain. Those of you who know me will laugh at this first one simply because I haven’t changed a whit to this day!

The professor was handing back our papers in alphabetical order and one by one, each person checked her grade. I suddenly realized that he had skipped over the S’s and I began to worry. Finally, holding up my one last paper he announced, “All of you have done well as you can see. You have understood the important points and covered them well. The author of this paper however, was the only one that included some of her own reflective thoughts on the topic!” He then handed the paper to me.

All I could think of at the time was what my mother would have thought had she been present. “No change, still speaking her mind!”

Telling this story on myself has really nothing to do with my choosing ‘…that by which…’ as the title of this piece. So please don’t struggle to make any subtle connections. Rather think back to our course in Minneapolis this summer.

As I listened to the various presentations and time and again heard reference to one or other of the SongWorks’ principles as reason for deciding to do this or that in their teaching, it dawned on me that SongWorks is really a philosophy of education.


‘…that by which…’ was the phrase used by my professor those 70 years ago, to explain the function of the word, ‘principle’. A principle is ‘…that by which…’ we arrive at a decision, or ‘…that by which…’ we settle on certain criteria for choosing a particular process. In Minneapolis, that was how the word ‘principle’ was used time and again.

That’s why I have come to the conclusion that SongWorks is a philosophy of education. It includes methods, but rather than being limited to a particular methodology, SongWorks is a philosophy!

The moral of this little bit of rambling for all of you still engaged in the glorious task of teaching children is to have confidence in the value of your work. Some nuggets of the wisdom you share may last the rest of your students’ lives. Look at how long the innocuous little phrase ‘…that by which…’ has lasted in mine! Look at how even now these many years later, it continues to shed new light on my understanding. So have confidence!

This article first appeared in the March 2017 Newsletter. It has been adapted for the “From the Archive” series.
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