Progression in music education?

By David Ashworth

Reproduced from the Youth Music website by kind permission of David Ashworth.

There is this thing called ‘music education’. When you have been working in music education for a fair while, you get the chance to see how this ‘thing’ develops and progresses over time.......and what you notice is that it doesn’t actually progress. If it did, there would be development towards ‘an improved or more advanced condition’ [as the dictionary says]. It is not even ‘two steps forward, one step back’. At least then we would be staggering in the right direction. No, this thing we call music education goes around in muddled circles. Muddled, because the ones who make the changes are not the ones who know how we can change things for the better. And, unfortunately, those in the former group take little notice of what is said by the latter. Time and again, we see this happening. The latest iteration is the GCSE/A level reform debacle.  Blindingly obvious, to many of us, are the ways in which we could significantly improve these specifications. Unfortunately, the ones steering the changes are a different breed altogether. Out of touch with music teachers, and the students they teach. The danger is that these muddled circles look set to become vicious circles. Or in plain English, music education may become a whole lot worse. Our best teachers have always been able to steer inspiring pathways through whatever curriculums or specifications are lobbed in their direction. This is going to get much harder for them. We are no longer rearranging the deck chairs – we are folding up the best ones and putting them away for the winter. And what will our students do?  When they have slogged away through a music education that is hopelessly out of line with what they want and need, they will do the same as previous generations. They will pack their instruments away and put them in the attic.  And there they will stay until the next generation’s version of James Rhodes cajoles us into getting them out again. So it goes on… If we want to see real progress being made in music education, we need those people who make the decisions and those who make TV programmes to listen – really listen. Listen to those in our community who have the answers, and act on what they say.

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