In my post on the steps of developing a curriculum guide, I explained that the second step, after evaluating the current program, is to develop a philosophy statement. This statement includes why music education is important and how music education fits into the overall educational plan. In that post, I promised to explain in more detail how to form a philosophy statement, and today I will devote this post to doing so. Throughout this discussion, I will draw primarily on the document The Arts: A Guide to K-12 Program Development, published by the Connecticut Department of Education.
Either before the writing committee meets to form a philosophy statement, or at the beginning of that meeting, each member should take 5-10 minutes to individually list in bullet form the most important reasons why every student should receive a music education. Each bullet point should be brief and to the point. If sources for a point is known, it should be noted parenthetically after the bullet point. These references can be listed as end notes to the philosophy chapter when this portion of the work is done. Searching for and bringing to this meeting scholarly articles on why music education is essential will both help spark the process and provide credible support for the points being made. Ellen Judson has provided an excellent compilation of research and public statements made by politicians in her article, “The Importance of Music.” Judson also provides an extensive reference list that can be used for further reading on the subject of the importance of music education.
The bullet points might answer any or all of the following questions: What does music mean to me? How has music helped me understand my own culture and the cultures of others? How has music enabled me to gain a better understanding of my own potential? In what ways am I personally involved with music creating, performing and/or responding? What is the creative process? What contributions does music make to society? What kinds of knowledge and skills to musicians have? What kinds of music involvement do you hope your students will have during their adult lives? What important information about the value of music instruction needs to be part of the curriculum guide?
When each member has written down bullet points and any reference they may have to support those points, the committee, if it is large enough, breaks into small groups to discuss and share the individual work. If the committee is comprised of a small music department of three or four music teachers, then the entire committee would discuss each member’s points. During this stage, individual points are discussed, refined and compiled onto chart paper so that all can see the compilation. Where multiple small groups have been formed, each group then reports to the entire committee, and each member is given the opportunity to circulate and read each sheet of chart paper. One or two members are chosen to serve as editors whose job is to find common points among group and individual lists with the aid of the whole group. After the meeting, the editors meet separately to combine related ideas and draft a master list of key beliefs. This master list is then circulated to all committee members, who are asked to rate each belief on a five-point scale, where 1 indicates “very important” and 5 indicates “should be omitted.” The editors then reorganize the list, showing all points from most to least important. This revised list is then circulated for review and responses, after which the editors make the final version of the list.
The editors next job is to write the first full draft of the philosophy, expanding the committee’s list of key beliefs into paragraphs. The draft is then circulated to all members who comment and make suggestions on the draft. This work can instead be done by a subcommittee if the committee is too large to accomplish the task efficiently. This step of circulating the draft for comments and suggestions is repeated until all are satisfied with the result. This step in the process can be guided by the following checklist:
- The claims that the philosophy makes for music education are supportable.
- The philosophy makes an educationally appropriate case for the ole of music in the k-12 curriculum for all children.
- The music program philosophy is consistent with the school district’s philosophy of education.
- The district’s music teachers are sincerely committed to each belief outlined in the philosophy.
- The philosophy includes the most important rationales for music education.
- The philosophy provides a sound foundation for comprehensive K-12 music goals and programs.
- The philosophy is written in clear language that can be understood by parents an other non-educators.
- The philosophy includes unique contributions of music education to the curriculum.
- The philosophy provides a clear an compelling justification for the program.
These statements can be assembled on a single page with a check box next to each and space for comments after each one. Committee member then use the statements as the basis for their comments and suggestions.