Policies, perception of policies, and teacher attitudes: their influence on the use of sacred music in public high schools
Gianuzzi, Deborah Prudenti
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In the last century, various court decisions and society's further acceptance of the premise of separation of church from state influenced the delivery of educational curricula in the United States. These legal and philosophical changes influenced public education policies leaving many areas open for discussion, disagreement, and reconciliation as to educators' personal and professional beliefs and their school districts' policies regarding the academic use sacred music in music curriculum. This qualitative study examined how policy, teacher perceptions of those policies, and teacher attitudes about the role of sacred music influence the inclusion or exclusion of sacred music in public high school music programs. I conducted this study in two stages. In Stage 1, I sent surveys to all high school (grades 9-12), instrumental and vocal music teachers in New Jersey. In Stage 2, I conducted 12 interviews with a group of purposefully selected teachers. I compiled, organized, and analyzed the collected data in order to discover the factors that influenced music educators' decisions to include or exclude sacred music in their programs and gain an understanding of the experiences of the music educators participating in this study. Participants claimed to be aware of policies at the state level that did not exist, district policies that they could not confirm, and an assortment of implied and understood policies left to individual interpretation. Classroom teachers were responsible for curricular content, formation, implementation, and enforcement of policy whether formal, informal, understood, or personally developed. The consensus among the participants in this study was regardless of any form of policy--formal, informal, implied, or personally developed--sacred music was an important component of a well-rounded program. Participants programmed sacred music for its educational value and not for devotional or religious purposes. Teaching, rehearsing, and performing sacred music was permissible when it fulfilled the educational goals of the curriculum. Teachers recommended a balanced program that included sacred and secular music, and--if possible--music of other religions.
Thesis (D.M.A.)--Boston University