Finding purpose, finding music education

Music Education debate in recent times in England has hovered around the problems of participation, inculsion and diversity. The question is asked why and how is it that not all children and young people benefit from a music education? It is claimed that the potential benefits are many and perhaps best summed up as gaining a sense of musical well-being with the promise of a wider well-being. That a music education contributes to the child’s present and future well-being and flourishing (eudaimonia) is a noble purpose. Can there be any greater? (I have done a shimmy here, moving from talk of benefits to purpose.)

Wayne Bowman asks a question that is contingent: what kind of person is it good to be? No easy answers please. But such a question, unless aksed, leaves music educational practice ethically weakened. Clearly there are many musical pathways to human flourishing, all of which call for an ethical commitment to social justice. But as Gary Spruce points out, music education policy in England is not helping in this. (See ‘Participation, Inclusion, Diversity and the Policy of English Music Education’ in Music Mark’s book ‘Reaching Out’.)

The debate is not easy to have at this time.

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