Spaces for music in English state secondary schools and the crisis of democracy, 1976–1982

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This article examines documentation from a previously unpublished architectural survey of English comprehensive secondary school music classrooms, conducted between 1976 and 1978 by a team of Department of Education and Science architects led by David and Mary Medd on behalf of a Schools Council music curriculum research project directed by John Paynter. Close readings of the results of the survey and the circumstances leading to its eventual withdrawal guide an examination of the ways foundational child-centred music curriculum research and early musical postmodernism were articulated in relation to the crisis of deindustrialisation and the first experiments in economic austerity. The conclusion examines the later appropriation and transformation of Paynter’s ideas in English music education policy, and argues that music critics and historians are wrong to denounce the postmodern aesthetics of progressive pedagogies as ‘neoliberal culture’, as neoliberal policy’s actual investments have been in an anti-democratic apparatus of canon and competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868-887
Number of pages20
JournalHistory of Education
Issue number6
Early online date18 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes

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