Preschool Music Education

Expectations

November 2016

In my notes I happily stumbled upon a pronunciation of Dr. Susan Young: “Teach children stuff. Have expectations.” A bit further my notes report a question: “Do children live in a different world from adults? “Understanding the world of the child” makes it sound like a different kind of people with different ways of doing things and understanding things. As a result it is possible to ponder certain things that might be based on the interest of the child. Which then by consequence might be different from the “adult” world.

 

Because this incorporates a different way of thinking about early childhood music education and also about what childhood is and what we should do in terms of teaching. Having an idea about “the musical world” of a child will heavily reflect on what and what not to teach and also how to teach.

 

Recently I had two encounters with persons who ruthlessly categorized Preschool Music Education as music therapy. We could say that with this action they did two things: placing PME in a different “world”, the world of therapy, and by doing so denoting a child in music education as being ill (Biesta, 2016). This is symptomatic of the current ideas about the early years as a time to correct as soon as possible all deviations and using the “magical years” – because now we have a “window” – to pump as much information possible in the children. The interesting thing is that when heading PME under music therapy it is not necessary to teach them stuff because therapy is to get well, not to be taught something. This way of thinking has repercussions when it concerns a well- underpinned approach to PME.

 

Young children do not live in a different world from adults. Concerning music education however we often read that young children are living in another “world”. The question is: are they? Or do we want/wish them to be? Because in the same sentence often children are also musical explorers. The issue is that most of the time they do not go beyond this exploration “stage” in the literature as well as the media and flyers for courses. Children always “meet” with music like they do things for the very first time. Most if not every course for young children is presented as if the children have never ever had any contact with music at all. Now in some cases this might be so, however in a media and music filled contemporary world this might be highly doubtful.

 

At the same time they are by “nature” often referred to as “creative and spontaneous music makers”. So this implies that either the children already had contact in some form with some music course or perhaps more likely a musical home situation or they are indeed by nature creative and spontaneous music makers which questions the very need of an early childhood music education course. Especially when it is being advertised as a musical exploration, which is not necessary anymore because young children already are music makers according to many reports.

 

So the next question is: when thinking of preschool music education, what is the actual education we will commit to and why? What should our expectations be? As a first implication I think the investigation of the content of our commitment to teaching PME might be a good start.