Deficit Models…

The deficit model which continues to be a pervasive force in Urban Education policy and reform is especially harmful to Music,  Fine Art, and other Aesthetic based educations in Urban societies throughout America.  The dismissal of the immense wealth of Cultural Capital is having a two-fold effect on the ability of teachers to provide more efficient and effective models in the classroom.  This two-fold paradigm can be seen as having the effect on the student and the effect on the teacher/institutionalization of Music Education.

As Tricia Rose noted in her 1994 book “Black Noise,” minority communities are constantly exposed to a barrage of negative media coverage, which is systemically devaluing the cultural, ethnic, and racial groups in the mass media.  The logical extension of this in the Music classrooms of America is evident in the selection of Music used to teach our Students.  The effects of negative, or un-taught, curriculum as a method of eliminating critical discussion is evident and serves only to reinforce the deficit model of education and further reinforce negative developmental paths for minority and Urban students.

Teachers are exposed to this process of developing a deficit canon in teacher education programs throughout the country.  While multi-cultural education has surely made progress since the 1968 passage of the Bi-Lingual Education Act, in music education it is easy to see more implementation of what Sonia Nieto (1994) would call “benevolent multi-culturalism.”  Exposing students to a wide variety of Musics is hugely positive, but when this exposure consists of minimal exposure within the confines of a “glancing over” of this culture there is again more reinforcement of the Superior-Inferior dichotomy of the educational value system.

To address these issues effectively systemic change is not only a necessity but the only way that any change can truly occur.  In-service teachers must be exposed to more meaningful professional development that will allow them the skills they need to use the student body’s cultural capital as a corner stone of their education.  Pre-service teachers must be exposed to various cultures in their student teaching, observation, and course work to develop deeper understanding and create teachers with the flexibility to meet the needs of heterogenous and homogenous groups of students.

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