Education Reform or Evolution:

How will the political climate affect music education and should we care?

The term ‘reform” has a somewhat negative connotation to me.  Perhaps that is because during my 35 years in education, reforms were often foisted on us by others outside of the profession without due consideration of the effects of how reform in one area effected other subjects. I hope that we see evolution as what happens to our profession. As Music education professionals, we use best practices in our classrooms, particularly in our performance-oriented classrooms, we constantly assess students for understanding and adjust our teaching to meet the end goal of a performance, so that the entire group can be successful.  Core classrooms should be so fluid and reflective of student diversity and ability.

Recent books I have read lead me to believe that economic reality and technology advances in education will shift the landscape of educational practices across the country.  I may be way off-base, but I think something will be happening particularly in the core areas that lend themselves readily to this type of thinking, so we should be ready with a willingness to consider fresh new approaches to music education to parallel changes elsewhere.

While my ideas of what will change are directly attributable to the list of authors and their works below, these are not original to me, but I think as an aggregate of ideas, they can and will stimulate ideas of what is possible and as music educators and leaders, we need to be ready for what may be coming:

1.)    In elementary school, I believe that the concept of age grouping will change to allow students to learn at their own pace and flow through the educational system as they learn.  More work for teachers and parents, but better for kids.

2.)    I believe that high schools will look more like a small-college with classes offered that students of all ages will be able to take, classes will focus on specific topics and shared learning.  Teachers will have office hours to work one-on-one with students.  Internet access and use will be the communication tool of choice most likely (I think the new term is blended learning).

3.)    What will the music teacher  do during all this?  I think we will always have performing groups in our schools.  They may look different as we develop choirs, bands and orchestras or some new group or class (Guitar ensembles, song-writing, Music history, composition, music theory, making your own instrument, mariachi, other small ensembles that reflect the culture in your  neighborhood, there is no limit for what someone in your community might want to learn.

 The books that are influencing me are:

1.)     Schools cannot do it alone, Jaime Vollmer

 2.)    The element, Sir Ken Robinson

 3.)    Out of our minds, Sir Ken Robinson

 4.)    Drive, Dan Pink

 5.)    Creating a new civilization: the politics of The Third Wave, Alvin and Heidi Toffler

 6.)    Sixteen Trends: Their Profound Impact on our Future, Gary Marx

 If you are reading something that might be interesting to the larger community or would like to comment or discuss this article or the ideas or any of these books, please email me, Jim Harmon at