Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bringing Integrity to Music Education Leadership

Music education has increasingly faced challenges associated with corporatization and commercialization, both within our educational institutions and professional organizations. As one reflects on various high-profile controversies that have impacted our field in recent years, it seems increasingly clear that more must be done to ensure integrity is maintained in leadership within the field of music education.

Such problems can be minimized if music teachers and students will embrace their responsibility to be vigilant critical thinkers and insist on attaining space for open democratic forums in which difficult questions may be raised to those in positions of leadership. Certain key questions come to mind that require careful consideration whenever we are faced with a new music education initiative:

1) Does this initiative provide maximum benefit to students in terms of quality musical experiences?

2) If money is involved, exactly how will the money be used and how can this be verified?

3) Are there additional conflicting agendas associated with this initiative, besides musical benefit to students, that might be cause for concern? (e.g. opportunities for executives to attain the favor of politicians or CEOs of major corporations, to profit from stock options, to promote themselves, or to sell additional products, etc.)

In recent years, professional organizations and educational institutions have increasingly focused their attention on marketing and profits, while important decisions are made behind closed doors without opportunities for open discussion. Leadership with integrity is difficult, and it is usually impossible for a leader to please all members of an organization. But while democratic processes may be imperfect and inefficient, they are essential in order to ensure that egalitarian empowerment is maximized while corruption is minimized.

I have been quite impressed so far with the forms of democracy I am experiencing in Finland. It is refreshing to see egalitarian opportunities for candid and transparent discussion regarding new initiatives in educational contexts, and there is clearly a focus on the noble objective of maximum benefit to students. Perhaps this is why Finland has consistently received some of the world’s highest (positive) ratings on international perceptions of corruption: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_rankings_of_Finland

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