Daisy Christodolou said something very important in one of the Michaela debates about education. She said that the debate between traditionalists and progressives was not “teacher-directed” vs “student-directed” but rather that traditional teachers were “knowledge-directed”. The learning in a classroom should be directed by the best that has been thought and said, not by the whim of teachers or students. The reason this is important is because progressives like to portray traditionalists as trying to control the learning in their classroom with students being passive recipients of what they say rather than critically thinking about what is said. Knowledge-directed is something else, you can critically think about the best that has been thought and said – people have been doing this since at least the time of Socrates.
I have shared the aims of what I am trying to achieve in the music classroom and these are based on powerful knowledge. With this knowledge, students are freed up to independently learn, become creative and critically think. For example, being able to read notation means that the single biggest barrier to learning an instrument has been taken away. Notation is a transferable skill, if you can read clarinet music, you can also read violin music. Understanding the chronology of Western Art Music will help you understand why composers wrote what they did and what they were building on or rebelling against. It is impossible to understand early 20th Century music without a good grounding in Romanticism, especially Wagner for this reason. And of course, composition is much, much easier when you understand basic harmony. The idea of composing with little knowledge of harmony is a big mistake. Sadly, the main delivery method of composition in the KS2/KS3 classroom is without any prior knowledge of harmony. And that is why in most cases, it is a complete waste of time.
The best way to decide what knowledge you want to teach is to think what the children ought to be able to do and know by age x. If you are really unsure, the Core Knowledge Curriculum by Civitas is a good start and has a pretty good list of music for music teachers to teach. At the end of the year I will release my curriculum which has detailed lists of repertoire to sing and play for each year group.