In light of the wave of recent terror attacks, including yesterday’s attack on London – apparently masterminded from my home town of Birmingham – in light of Brexit, and in light of Donald Trump’s election to the most powerful office in the world, it can sometimes feel that our sector’s fight to secure the future of music education here in the UK is an insignificant and almost time-wasting issue.
However, in common with most educators in Britain, I have recently completed Prevent Training, an initiative provided by the government to help people working with children & young people spot the signs of radicalisation. This training shows how young people can be isolated from the good influences around them, and, driven by a sense of belonging, can become embroiled in groups and with individuals who can groom them to become tools of destruction.
What struck me when undertaking this training was how music could be used as a tool to prevent the feelings of isolation which may lead to radicalisation. Music gives young people an outlet to express feelings that they cannot verbalise. Musical ensembles and groups provide social interaction with like-minded individuals, giving young people somewhere to go and use their passion creatively. Children and young people already use the music they listen to as a means of social identification, so participating in musical activities can be a brilliant way to give young people a sense of belonging. Music encourages tolerance, cooperation, understanding, and empathy. Music makes us human.
Of course this is, I am sure, a terribly simplistic view. I have no doubt that many people on the internet are queuing up to tell me so right now. However, I truly believe that it would be a terrible, perhaps even a dangerous thing, if music once again became the preserve only of those who can afford to pay. If children from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot participate in music it becomes yet one more thing that they are excluded from, increasing feelings of isolation and potentially raising the risk of radicalisation.
I’m not saying that music education can change all of the world’s problems.
But isn’t it worth a try?
Dr Elizabeth Stafford
23rd March 2017