Religion, public education, and gender: a feminist critical analysis of policies implemented for objections to music in mixed-gender elementary education courses
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In 2008 the Michigan State Board of Education adopted new certification standards for teacher preparation institutions training elementary classroom teachers. Eight content areas were identified, one of which was visual and performing arts. Standard 1.5, Visual and Performing Arts states candidates are to demonstrate knowledge and understanding in the areas of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts. Teacher preparation institutions around the state have created or modified a music class in response to the new state standard. Most music courses require some degree of participation in music by elementary teacher candidates. Completion of the required music course is problematic for some Muslim and Orthodox Jewish female candidates due to religious restrictions on music participation in mixed-gender settings. A policy implementation analysis was conducted through a collective case study to determine what policies public universities would implement when women in the elementary education program voiced objections to participation in required music courses. A feminist critical lens was used in analyzing the data. Nine universities were selected for participation. Administrators and instructors from the College of Education and music departments participated in interviews or completed surveys during the 2009- 2010 school year to determine: (a) if there had been instances of female students voicing objections to participation, (b) what policies were implemented when students voiced objections, and (c) what policies would be implemented should objections be raised in the future. I looked for the ways in which capacity, communication, dispositions, and bureaucratic structures either advanced or curtailed policy implementation in equitable ways for women with religious restrictions. In addition, I analyzed Federal, state, and policies posted on university web sites to determine which policies were best suited to creating open access and equalized educational opportunities for women with religious restrictions. Two institutions reported instances of Muslim women voicing objections to participation in the required music course. Resolutions were unique to each woman's situation. Diversity policies, Title IX, and Title IX 2006 Amendment were identified as the policies most advantageous for creating an equitable education that provides complete instructional benefits for candidates and satisfies state mandates. I conclude with a discussion on the cultural homogenization of the curriculum and offer recommendations for ways in which universities can expand diversity initiatives through single-sex music classes for women.
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