Music Education Needs to Include Cultural and Social Studies

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Education is the foundation of society and while there are certain classes and subjects that seem to get all of the attention, music education is just as important as any other lesson. However, while learning about music should be fundamental, as funding and programming gets cut, things tend to get lost in the shuffle, with music education seeming to be one of the first programs to go.

Perhaps what makes music education so important is the fact that it is a chance to let students learn something new that will inspire them. It is a chance to expand their horizons and even show them a new way to learn. The problem is that in many cases, music education does not take into account the students being taught.

Depending on what part of the United States a person lives in, it can have a dramatic impact on the type of music that is listened to. While music might be universal at its core, when it comes to teaching students about music, there needs to be a focus on cultural and social studies as well. This means that artists that one may not have originally considered vital to music education are being incorporated into the curriculum.

Students in Chicago might not be interested in listening to Chris Young, Keith Urban, or Carrie Underwood. At the same time, there will be other students not interested in music from Cardi B, Lizzo, or Tyga. However, just because students might not be interested in an artist, that does not mean there should not be some mention of that music.

Music education needs to be a more inclusive learning experience. It needs to draw students in, and the best way to do that is to pay attention to the community in which one is teaching. As the “Washington Post” reported, what is missing from music education is “cultural and social relevance.”

Although traditional music education focuses on things like technique, classics, music theory, and general subject matter, there really is more to these classes than that. Instead, the best way to make teaching music relevant is to be responsive to the social and cultural elements that surround students on a daily basis.

If students listen to Cardi B’s music, they should learn about what goes into her songs and album. Teach the history of rap, rock and roll, country, and more. Music education does not have to be stiff and boring. Students do not need to play the recorder every year or learn just folk songs and classical music. Instead, make it about them and what they already listen to.

What better way is there to engage a student than to incorporate something they already enjoy? With music these students already listen to and appreciate as a foundation for music education, teachers are better able to engage the children and young adults in their classes and give them something they already want to know more about. Of course, it is not just about listening to this music or learning the history of a genre, it is also about having each student write their own songs and record it.

Music education is a chance to have fun with learning and that is something none of us should forget or take for granted. Beyond that, it is a chance to break boundaries and allow students from anywhere in the world to learn something new while also making them feel comfortable.

When it comes to music education, it is not just about adding an extracurricular class to the day. It is about offering something that makes students want to come to school every day, and if that means adding some rap to the mix, then perhaps that is the best way to truly be culturally sensitive.

Written by Kimberley Spinney


Washington Post – Here’s what’s missing in music education: Cultural and social relevance

Image Credit – Charlie Day’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License