Taking Action for Music Education
By Landon Wynne
How often do we all hear about how broken our education system is, or how music programs are in constant jeopardy? Now, how often is this blamed on “incompetent legislators” and “badly written laws”?
If your experience is anything like mine, then you have heard these complaints on an almost weekly basis. Yet, these complaints are rarely followed with action. As a mentor of mine said, “Complaining is easy; doing something is what matters.” In other, more common terms, “Talk is cheap.”
As a young teacher, and a music education student at university, it can be easy for me to think that my voice doesn’t matter and that there’s nothing I can do to make positive change in education law. Yet, my experiences at the NAfME Collegiate Advocacy Summit proved to me that this is simply not the case.
How Do I Do Something?
The NAfME Collegiate Advocacy Summit, which took place during National Assembly, opened my eyes to some of the best ways to take action on education issues. It turns out:
- Writing your legislators in Congress really does matter.
- 14,000+ US Citizens used resources to contact their representatives and advocate for music education. This kind of action prompted a committee in the Senate to draft a new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
- Legislators rely on communication with their constituents and with lobbyists from special interest groups. As individuals, they cannot be experts in every subject.
- Beyond letters, emails, and phone calls, an effective way to help legislators understand education issues is to schedule meetings with them. This was the method we used at the Advocacy Summit, advocating specifically for the newly drafted version of ESEA.
- Personal stories proved to be very well received. Several of the representatives I spoke with were intent on hearing the stories behind those of us who came to speak with them.
How Do We Know This Works?
After the June Summit visit to Washington, D.C., the Senate voted to pass (81 to 17) a version of ESEA for which we advocated. Due to our efforts, and the efforts of those who have advocated before us, this legislation is moving forward.
So What Now?
Now that I have attended the NAfME Collegiate Advocacy Summit, I have a much greater understanding of the legal process of education law and how to advocate for music education. This understanding comes with a sense of responsibility to help my students and colleagues understand the importance of being involved in the government and in law-making.
The Collegiate Advocacy Summit got me thinking about the connection between advocating for positive education change and teaching students democracy through experience. It is one thing to tell students that education can be changed for the better, and it is a whole other thing to let them experience having a say in rulemaking. For one, the representatives I talked to expressed an interest in attending school events and seeing what happens in classrooms of their districts. My students loved the idea and we are having a discussion on what we could be doing to be more in touch with our legislators.
Interestingly, it seems that convincing colleagues and peers to take action is significantly more difficult than convincing my students. It will take a lot of work to convince my colleagues that getting involved and informed is worth it and that giving up on the government is unproductive.
That said, my experiences at the NAfME Collegiate Advocacy Summit have given me plenty of examples and information from which to draw. So far, these personal stories have been the strongest arguments in my attempts to change my colleagues’ minds. It will be important to keep the conversation going and to help each other stay informed.
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About the Author:
Collegiate NAfME member Landon Wynne grew up calling the Pacific Northwest home and has, therefore, an affinity for the outdoors and an appreciation for honest hard work. After spending a quarter of his high school career in music classes and significant time in project-based learning, Landon realized what song his life plays and decided to join in. He took three months after graduating high school to volunteer at an adventure camp in Montana, wherein he had both the pleasure and challenge of leading backpacking, climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and white-water kayaking/rafting. Immediately following, Landon began attending Whatcom Community College and, after two years and an internship at Explorations Academy, transferred to Western Washington University, where he is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Music Education. Landon is also continuing his involvement at Explorations Academy as the Music Program Coordinator and is currently serving as the Collegiate President on the Washington Music Educators Association board.
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Brendan McAloon, Marketing and Events Coordinator, September 25, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).