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RC

Richard Cobeen

Richard Cobeen is a third grade teacher at Malcolm X Elementary School in Berkeley, CA. He has included a music history curriculum in his third and fourth grade classrooms during his twelve years of teaching.

"'I’d Hammer Out Warning': How Women Changed Music Education in Elementary Schools"
During the late 1960s and through the 1970s, women led a change in the musical education of elementary students that included teaching of songs associated with current folk-like tunes of a political bent to the more traditional Stephen Foster oriented curriculum. This change lasted until a combination of cultural and systemic forces brought about the virtual end of early musical education.
This paper will focus on the use of music more in current parlance in the Sixties, by Peter, Paul, and Mary, Joan Baez, and others, that were popular in the liberal arts schools many of the future teachers attended. The explosion of public higher education in post World War Two America provided an opportunity for women, the traditional leaders of elementary classrooms, to gain experiences that inspired them to expand the boundaries of what was presented to students in musical education. Those teachers brought a more female and political bent to the music presented in the classroom, exemplified by the more recent copyrights “If I Had a Hammer,” “Little Boxes” and “Puff, the Magic Dragon”. These folk based songs were reflected in some of the songs students were hearing on top forty radio of the early Seventies, number one songs like “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Help Me” and “Cat’s in the Cradle” among many others.
The second part of the paper will focus on the influences that slowly abated the musical education of elementary students. National education policy, begun by Jimmy Carter but strengthened by following Republican administrations ready to denounce early radicalization of America’s youth, and the introduction of education standards used to abandon most non-traditional curriculum, combined to create an atmosphere where early music education has become almost nonexistent. This squelched a major female perspective teachers brought to their elementary classrooms.