The Commencement of the Manhattanville Music Curriculum Program: 1957-1966

By Moon, Kyung-Suk | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, April 2006 | Go to article overview
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The Commencement of the Manhattanville Music Curriculum Program: 1957-1966


Moon, Kyung-Suk, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


The period extending from the late 1950s through the 1960s was an era of intensive curriculum reform in United States education history. (1) This period featured an "alphabet soup" of new curriculum projects in various school subjects: the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), the Chemical Education Materials Study (CEMS), the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC), the School Mathematics Study Group (SMSG), and, in music: the Contemporary Music Project (CMP) and the Manhattanville Music Curriculum Program (MMCP). (2) These new curricula were tested, re-tested, and revised in participating schools. Summer institutes and in-service programs were held to train teachers in the use of new materials and methods. This extensive education reform movement swept through many school subject areas and across the nation. (3)

The Manhattanville Program was a major music curriculum reform project undertaken during the 1960s. Contemporary observers view the MMCP as one of the pivotal events in American music education history during the second half of the twentieth century. (4) Nevertheless, no major historical studies of the MMCP have been undertaken to date. All the extant research on the MMCP has been in the form of empirical studies on the effects of local, small-scale applications of MMCP principles and strategies. (5) This study constitutes a first attempt to document some of the history of the MMCP beyond its treatment in general surveys of American music education history, and focuses on an examination of the circumstances and major events that gave impetus to the formation of the MMCP.

Involvement of the Federal Government

The federal government played a significant role in the school reform movement. The direct impetus for the government's involvement was the Soviet Union's launching of the world's first space satellite, Sputnik I, in October 1957. The "Soviet Union's triumph in space technology" panicked the American people, and public education immediately fell under heavy criticism. Education came to be seen as a matter of the nation's survival in the cold war competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. Education reform became one of the most critical concerns of the nation during this post-Sputnik period. (6)

Although the U.S. Constitution gives the states responsibility for education, during this period the federal government began to provide strong support for education reform in the form of financial support through educational legislation, beginning soon after the Sputnik event with the National Defense Education Act. During the five-year period 1963-1968, the U.S. Congress enacted twenty-four major pieces of educational legislation. As a result, more substantial funds than ever before were distributed to support education. (7)

After Sputnik and until 1963, the federal government directed funding exclusively to the fields of mathematics, science, and modern foreign languages. Arts and humanities education was excluded from federal funding. There was no federal support for summer training for teachers in the arts, although the National Science Foundation sponsored approximately 416 summer institutes for high school teachers of mathematics, physics, and biology in the summer of 1962 alone, and the U. S. Office of Education financed eighty foreign language programs in the same summer. (8)

This state of affairs in education curriculum reform took a turn in 1962 when the Kennedy administration established the Cultural Affairs Branch, a precursor of the Arts and Humanities Program, within the Office of Education. Kathryn Bloom was appointed as director. The branch consisted of two staff members, both in the Office of Education: Harold Arberg, a music education specialist, was appointed as the first arts specialist and Richard Grove was appointed museum education specialist. (9) This was a landmark event because for the first time arts education received official recognition within the federal government.

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