Recently an article by Dr. Susan Young* made it very clear that the field of early childhood music education is in turmoil. Especially for the last decade, it is possible to say that early childhood music education has been molded into a method for achieving things other than music itself - the most popular: language & mathematics. The decline of good, theoretically-underpinned practice, and the associated deterioration in the quality of the didactical and pedagogical approach, is a result of the current commercialist tendencies fuelled by research reports that are issued hastily, with often reductionist methodology, in order to have something “out there”. The results consequently have become simplified slogans to draw “customers” in.
Young children are no longer children or pupils, they have become clients. In this fast-paced, neo-liberal, commercialized western world, early childhood music education is almost no longer a musical haven where real music education can thrive, where children can explore music in its diversity, and parents can have a “time-out” of life to be actually together with their children, making music. As educators, it seems that we are compelled to stimulate the cognitive development of children as a necessity - because of the deplorable tendency that “we increasingly see children as potential carriers of possible abnormalities” **. And music education is often looked at as being therapy - which it is not!
So, things other than the music itself now require attention, be it inside the lessons or outside and new and extra information has to be searched-for to comply with current trends and fashions. A music course for young children cannot be offered, advertised, anymore without referring to extra-musical benefits. To draw parents - clients - in, snippets and slogans are pulled from the web without diving into the background rationale, without reading where the research is actually coming from, without checking if the methodology is okay, and without reading beyond solely what appears to be “of use”. Browsing and choosing what looks nice, what fits within his or her ideas, and what is to the liking of the browsing person results in confirmation bias***. Phrases, concepts, words are divorced from their context, from the constructed rationale that may have required an entire chapter to elucidate, or from reasoning that took the better part of 20 years of thinking and research for someone. The web has a wealth of information that we might use for the children in early childhood music education. Let’s use it carefully and knowledgeably.
Many thanks to Alison Harmer for having a critical and most helpful look at this text.
* Young, Susan (2020) ‘Beware the neuromyths! A critical discussion on the ‘brainification’of early childhood music’, International Journal of Music in Early Childhood, 15:1, pp. 11–24, doi: https://doi.org/10.1386/ijmec_00009_1
** Micha de Winter, Nivoz 2019 - https://nivoz.nl/nl/het-verslag-hoop-en-optimisme-als-tegengif-voor-de-kwetsbaarheidscultus