Photo: Karoliina Pirkkanen

Can activism change the education field?


Nordic Network for Research in Music Education conference at the Sibelius Academy from March 3rd to March 5th 2015
Keynote speakers: Kai Lehikoinen, Michael Apple, Petter Dyndahl

The 19th conference of Nordic Network for Research in Music Education has gathereded the scandinavian researchers of music education to the University of the Arts.  This year’s theme has been activism in music education. On Wednesday March 4th, Michael Apple asked can activism change the education field.

Apple is one of the conference’s three keynote presenters. He stated, that the education field is in crisis and is currently challenged by neoliberalism, neoconservatism, authoritarian populism and new managerialism in many societies. He gave examples about the situation in the United States. As an example of neoliberalism’s affect in the education field, in certain US education organizations teachers are being paid based on how well their students are doing.

- But is private by definition always good and societal bad?, Apple asks.

He also brings up the increasing popularity of homeschooling.: in the US, children are pulled out from public schools to be educated at home for religious reasons – some parents see the teachers as ”tools of the devil”.

The aim of authoritarian populism is to restore biblical authority in education. We see this in Palestine and Syria but also in the US. The New managerialists are middle-class based actors who tend to accept only what is evidence based are acceptable.

What can music educators do to help the situation? Apple encourages for example to expand the notion of research.

- As researchers and actors, we should avoid arrogance and respect the tradition and the history that brought us to where we are now.

Apple says we should actively bring to public knowledge what is going on – describe the reality critically.

- Los Angeles hasn’t hired a music teacher in five years but there are not many that don’t know about this. We have to bring these kind of issues to discussion.

Apple urged the audience to think about their own role in the changing education field.

- We have to connect ourselves to the society around us. We cannot ask other people to act unless we are ready to act ourselves. We have to ”step out of the balcony” and actively take part in the debate and conversation. All these tasks require collective as well as individual efforts. None of us can do all of these things, we need to share what we know, he concluded.


More about the conference at