Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

The Role of MENC: The National Association for Music Education in Early Childhood Music Education 1980-2007

Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

The Role of MENC: The National Association for Music Education in Early Childhood Music Education 1980-2007

Article excerpt

During the last one hundred years, MENC: The National Association for Music Education has provided immeasurable support for American music educators. Although a central tenet of MENC's philosophy has been to promote music education as key in the cognitive development of the very young, few researchers have documented its role in early childhood music education. Alvarez, in her doctoral dissertation, Preschool Education and Research on the Musical Development of Preschool Children: 1900 to 1980, provides comprehensive details of early childhood music education during that time period--including the role of MENC. Because the last twenty-five years remain largely unexamined, the purpose of this research was to examine the role MENC has taken in developing early childhood music education in the United States between 1980 and 2007.

Examining the last quarter century has shown that MENC has supported early childhood music learning and teaching in at least two ways: (1) advocating for music education in early childhood, and (2) providing structural support through facilitating research, publication, and practice. In this paper, we will provide a brief background of the socio-political circumstances that encouraged MENC to adopt specific positions regarding music education for the very young, and describe MENC's activity associated with both categories.

Music and Preschool Education Since World War II

During the 20th century, social and economic changes enacted by the federal government significantly affected the nature and quality of music education for preschoolers. As the latter part of the century saw increased enrollment in preschool programs, accompanied by decreased federal funding for these services, MENC began to adopt official positions regarding early childhood music education.

The increase in dual-worker families in the years following World War II meant that more childcare was needed. In order to assist children of these families, Congress proposed and enacted several financial initiatives between 1950 and 1980. One of the most significant, the Economic Opportunity Act (1964), (2) appropriated federal funding for 1,676 Head Start facilities, serving 375,842 children. (3) Between 1964 and 1978, the percentage of the 3-4 year-old population enrolled in childcare programs--including Head Start--rose from 10 percent to 30 percent for white students, and 10 percent to 40 percent for non-white students. That increase may be partially explained by a parallel increase in the number of females in the labor force according to U.S. Census reports, but the data are far from conclusive. (4)

The most significant appropriation of federal funds for childcare during the latter part of the century came from Title XX of the 1974 Social Service Amendments, which appropriated more than $700 million yearly for child care and child neglect services. (5) For many states, such funds became the sole means of federally subsidized childcare available, and therefore their only way to expose children to structured music education. The funding did not last, as the economic recession of the late 1970s pressured lawmakers to use federal funding for social programs in the most efficient way, forcing them to reexamine Title XX. In 1981, the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) replaced Title XX as the appropriations vehicle for many social services, including childcare. While the SSBG allowed individual states more freedom in determining how funds could be used, it decreased the level of authorized funding by 20 percent--from $2.9 billion to $2.4 billion--and eliminated $200 million earmarked for childcare, a trend that continued during next two decades. Federal funding for childcare and other services from the SSBG was reduced by 58 percent, from $6.626 billion in 1981 to $2.8 billion in 1994 dollars. (6)

MENC Advocating Early Childhood Music Education

As enrollment in early childhood music education programs increased and support funding decreased, government relations and advocacy for arts education became a necessary cornerstone of activity for MENC. …

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