Patriotic Music Education

In July of 2005, in collaboration with outstanding German music education scholar Alexandra Kertz-Welzel, I organized an international panel on the topic of patriotism and nationalism in music education for the Asia-Pacific Symposium for Music Education Research, which was followed by our publication of related articles and finally, submission (and acceptance) of a book proposal. The panel included representation from the United States, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and the People's Republic of China. I also raised this topic to a meeting of the UNESCO Arts Chair and ensured that related issues were discussed at the Tanglewood II symposium.

Since that time, this theme has been publicly discussed by several other music education scholars, with particular attention to the troubling role of the National Anthem Project, a propaganda effort launched in American schools (with the sponsorship of various corporations and the United States military) by MENC: The National Association for Music Education. Over time, the purpose of the project - originally indicated with the statement that “MENC is sponsoring The National Anthem Project to revive America's patriotism by educating Americans about the importance of The Star-Spangled Banner-both the flag and the song” - was revised on the organization's website to suggest that its objective was merely to draw more public attention to the importance of music education:

  • A member of our original panel Amy Beegle of Pacific Lutheran University published one of the first important articles related to this topic: Beegle, A. (2004) American Music Education 1941-1946: Meeting Needs and Making Adjustments During World War II. Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, 26(1).
  • Professor Jere Humphreys of Arizona State University bravely declared in his MENC Senior Researcher Award acceptance speech that “the National Anthem Project sends questionable messages during this time of controversy during a foreign war and the reduction of civil liberties at home and abroad” and warned against the “messages and images this campaign engenders” (Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 54).
  • Professor Estelle Jorgensen of Indiana University (founding editor of Philosophy of Music Education Review) also wrote that “selecting The Star-Spangled Banner as the focus of a national campaign to teach the nation to sing can be read as too narrow an objective in that it forwards the limited claims of nationalism to the exclusion of building international and local affiliations and identities. Rather, music teachers need to resist the claims of excessive nationalism in order to ensure that these other interests are also served” (Philosophy of Music Education Review, Vol. 15).
  • Professor Paul Woodford of University of Western Ontario wrote that “Regrettably, music is often implicated in these kinds of emotional appeals, such as is currently happening with MENC’s National Anthem Project (whose honorary chairperson is Laura Bush) and as happened a few years ago when the American military adopted country and western singer Toby Keith’s song “Curtesy of the Red, White, and Blue, The American Way” as a propaganda tool for rallying the troops and the public behind the war in Iraq” (Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, Vol. 7).
  • One of the most prolific music education scholars of my generation, Carlos Abril of Northwestern University cautioned that most of the National Anthem Project's efforts “propel absolutist views in which declared truths take a front seat to divergent understandings and discoveries” (Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, Vol. 172).
  • In 2009, J. Scott Goble of University of British Columbia raised similar concerns in his article "Nationalism in United States Music Education during World War II," in Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, Vol. 30.

    Music educators and musicologists are also increasingly advocating for more accurate dissemination of information regarding ongoing military operations, particularly as they relate to the use of music as a component of torture and propaganda:

    SEM Position Statement on Music and Torture (ethnomusicologists) -

    Federation of American Scientists
    (objectively monitors military operations) -

    Teaching the National Anthem in
    Japan (member state, “Coalition of the Willing”) -

  • Here is a link to the Iraq Body Count project, a massive research inquiry founded by leading music psychologists such as John Sloboda, Eric Clarke, and Scott Lipscomb. http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

  • Related resources from media studies and other fields include the Center for Public Integrity's
    Report on Iraq War Deception

    Other publications of interest include "Estimated Financial Cost of Iraq War: USA $3 Trillion" (Washington Post, March 2008).

  • Also, click HERE for an insightful article on the current state of the American war in Afghanistan.
  • Click HERE for discussion of the "Collateral Murder" incident.
  • Click HERE for the Los Angeles Times article "Pentagon can't account for $8.7 billion in Iraqi funds".

    Below is the opening material for the book I have developed with Alexandra Kertz-Welzel:

    Hebert, D. G. & Kertz-Welzel, A. (Eds.) (in press/forthcoming, 2012). Patriotism and Nationalism in Music Education. [Contributors: Simon Keller, Jane Southcott, Kari Veblen, Ambigay Yudkoff, Carlos Abril, CheeHoo Lum, Eugene Dairianathan, Amy Beegle, Wai-Chung Ho, Marja Heimonen, David G. Hebert, Alexandra Kertz-Welzel].

    Click HERE for a related book announcement.

    Patriotism and Nationalism
    in Music Education

    Edited by
    David G. Hebert and
    Alexandra Kertz-Welzel

    Music has long served as an emblem of national identity in educational systems throughout the world. Patriotic songs are commonly considered healthy and essential ingredients of school curriculum, nurturing the respect, loyalty and “good citizenship” of students. But to what extent have music educators critically examined the potential benefits and costs of nationalism? Globalization in the contemporary world has revolutionized the nature of international relationships, such that patriotism may merit rethinking as an objective for music education. The fields of “peace studies” and “education for international understanding” may better reflect current values shared by the profession, values that often conflict with the nationalistic impulse. This is the first book to introduce an international dialogue on this important theme.
    David G. Hebert and Alexandra Kertz-Welzel
    Preface: On Patriotism and Education
    Simon Keller
    1 Patriotism and Music Education: An International Overview
    David G. Hebert
    2 Lesson Learned? In Search for Patriotism and Nationalism in the German Music Education Curriculum
    Alexandra Kertz-Welzel
    3 Nationalism and School Music in Australia
    Jane Southcott
    4 National Identity in the Taiwanese System of Music Education
    Wai-Chung Ho
    5 A National Anthem: Patriotic Symbol or Democratic Action?
    Carlos R. Abril
    6 Nationalism and Patriotism: The Experience of an Indian
    Diaspora in South Africa
    Ambigay Raidoo Yudkoff
    7 Soundscapes of a Nation(alism): Perspectives from Singapore
    Chee-Hoo Lum and Eugene Dairianathan
    8 Conflicting Perspectives on Patriotism within Music Education in the United States During Wartime
    Amy C. Beegle
    9 "We Stand on Guard for Thee": National Identity in Canadian Music Education
    Kari K. Veblen
    10 Nationalism and Music Education: A Finnish Perspective
    Marja Heimonen and David G. Hebert
    11 Conclusions and Recommendations
    David G. Hebert and Alexandra Kertz-Welzel

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