Musicking for social change: music educators' perceptions of social justice education

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Fraser, Justin D.
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Social justice education (SJE) is broadly understood as the pedagogical work of challenging the systems, structures, and discourses that oppress, exploit, and exclude. Importantly, SJE vis-à-vis music education offers students unique opportunities to critically connect with and respond to the world by engaging musically with issues of (in)equity and (in)justice. However, despite its transformative potential, there is limited research on how the concept of SJE is perceived by secondary music educators. This matters because music educators’ perceptions of SJE inevitably shape their orientations toward and relationships with students, pedagogy, music, and social justice. Therefore, grounded in a bricolage approach to methodology that draws on critical, poststructural, and anti-colonial perspectives, this qualitative research study employs semi-structured interviews to critically examine how 10 Grade 7 to 12 Manitoba school music educators: (a) conceptualize SJE, (b) understand the importance of SJE in relation to their roles as music educators, and (c) understand the connections between social justice, music education, and the Manitoba music curriculum framework. This study reveals that research participants’ perceptions of SJE are both constructed within and constrained by the dominant discourses of the Western classical ensemble paradigm, thereby perpetuating the hegemony of Western art music and colonial musical epistemologies while simultaneously marginalizing the work of social justice. Findings also reveal that study participants’ perceptions of SJE are largely informed by liberal conceptions of social justice which have the potential to invisibilize unequal power relations and normalize coloniality. This study is significant in coming to know how, despite music educators’ best intentions, efforts to enact social change through music education may inadvertently embody oppressive potential.
music education, social justice, teacher perceptions, colonialism, liberalism