This paper explores the demise of progressive music education in America during the 1940s and 1950s, when philosopher John Dewey and other social progressives were being blamed by conservatives for a lack of educational standards that purportedly hampered the country’s ability to fight the Cold War. Whereas Dewey had argued that the central purpose of education should be the creation of a politically informed and engaged citizenry as a check to government and corporate power and control, and that art education could be an important tool in that political project, conservatives contended that education needed to be harnessed in defense of democratic capitalism. The new educational emphasis was to be on the promotion of disciplinary knowledge, abstract thinking ability, and educational specialization—all of which were deemed useful to the Cold War effort—and not the fostering of democratic citizenship. Education was reconceived as a form “of social control rather than liberation” (Crist, 2003, p. 458). The story of the death of Dewey’s educational philosophy is told through the writings of progressive music educator James Mursell, government education spokesperson Jerome Bruner, and prominent individuals involved in the shaping of the early aesthetic education movement that arose in response to the new educational regime. The paper concludes with a review and discussion of Dewey’s philosophy to explain how those and subsequent educational reforms during the past half century have contributed to the political disfranchisement of children by keeping them in ignorance of real-world problems affecting them and society.
"Dewey’s Bastards: Mursell, Broudy, McMurray, and the
Demise of Progressive Music Education,"
Visions of Research in Music Education: Vol. 21, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lib.uconn.edu/vrme/vol21/iss1/3