Use of sacred choral music in public schools
September 17, 2012 at 10:51 am #12351
I am facing being forced by my administrators to eliminate sacred choral music from a program that has a long history of sacred music being included in the varied musical selections being programmed. I took over this program with the promise of community and administrative support for all styles, periods, sects, etc. to be sung. However the administration that hired me was also replaced. I will not back down quietly, but need some backing.September 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm #12367
NAfME has a position statement on Sacred Music in the Schools…you might find some more help from the references listed at the end of this document.
Hope this helps…
Caroline Arlington, NAfME staff liaisonSeptember 18, 2012 at 11:49 am #12390
The NAfME position statement will be helpful in your communication with administrators. Sacred music has its place in the choral curriculum in studying the musical periods and the great masters of early music through contemporary music. It would be like taking the textbook out of any classroom. Since your administrators are obviously not music majors you may need to solicite the help from a district music person to help back you up. To remove the sacred music from your curriculum would certainly put a gap in the training the students receive. As long as there is balance between sacred and secular there is no mandate that sacred music be removed from choral classes. Please let us know how this plays out.
LeAnna Willmore, NAfME Choral Education ChairOctober 20, 2012 at 4:14 am #14059
Please let me know how this dilema with your administration went. Sacred music is such a huge part of music history I don’t see how they could ban you from using it.October 22, 2012 at 9:56 am #14077
I am trying to post a response to this, but I keep getting an error message. Trying this short post as a test, and it seems like the problem has to do with apostrophes and quotation marks being present…hope I can resolve the issue!October 23, 2012 at 9:56 pm #14277
(Still can’t post – trying to do it in short segments, see if I can isolate a problem)
For starters, I think you can make the case that excluding sacred music categorically from the public school is a violation of 1st Amendment, both in the Free Speech, and Free Exercise Clauses. The Supreme Court has never ruled specifically on sacred music in public schools, but we can look at other related decisions, and draw together a pretty cogent argument, I think.October 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm #14278
Check out these 3 cases (wikipedia has decent summaries if you can’t access any law journals and don’t want to sift through the government documents)
-Lemon v. Kurtzman, 1971
-Lynch v. Donnelly, 1984
-Lee v. Weisman, 1992October 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm #14279
The Lemon Test established an important test for you in this case: the government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion. You can argue, with Court precedence, that the school system is inhibiting religion in the students and community by banning all sacred material categorically. Here’s a quote from Justice O’Connor from Lee v. Weisman to back up exactly that –
…relentless and all-pervasive attempt to exclude religion from every aspect of public life could itself become inconsistent with the Constitution.October 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm #14280
Your school is, in effect, endorsing non-religion by banning all religious content from your music. That fails the Court’s tests, and violates the First Amendment. The Court’s rulings on similar issues will back you up if you use them!October 23, 2012 at 10:41 pm #14281
The NAfME position papers are also great, as they and other sources say that removing sacred music severely distorts students’ perspective on Western music, as so much of its rich history is tied to sacred music.
Sorry for the disjointed and strangely punctuated posts – never figured out the problem with posting all at once, and had to vastly abbreviate! I’ve submitted an article on this subject, saying everything here and more, to my state music ed journal, VMEA Notes. Will let you know if it gets in!October 24, 2012 at 10:07 am #14300
I have a packet of resources I’ve compiled with a colleague to assist with the justification of inclusion of sacred and secular music in a comprehensive music curriculum. It also includes a basic summary of relevant court cases and rulings. If you’re interested, feel free to contact me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to send them to you.October 24, 2012 at 10:07 am #14301
I have a packet of resources I’ve compiled with a colleague to assist with the justification of inclusion of sacred and secular music in a comprehensive music curriculum. It also includes a basic summary of relevant court cases and rulings. If you’re interested, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to send them to you.October 25, 2012 at 11:33 am #14388
Tim and Kate thank you for your valuable resources. I hope we all hear how this plays out.
LeAnna Willmore, NAfME Choral Education Council ChairAugust 28, 2013 at 1:37 pm #27469
Carisasmail – how have things played out at your school?October 1, 2013 at 3:40 pm #29739
Does this mean they also take all religious paintings out of teaching art history? What about African American spirituals? The history of music and art do not exist without the inclusion of sacred works. I would definitely use the resources from NAfME and ACDA to support your cause.
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