Part III: Case Studies
Like professionals in other disciplines, music educators are expected to observe certain behavioral standards. In addition to teaching musical skills, concepts, and context, music educators are also expected to protect the welfare of children, serve as trustworthy stewards of public property, and generally behave responsibly and professionally within the context of the school and local community. Despite these expectations, many music educators have engaged in unprofessional, unethical, or illegal conduct.
― Joelle L. Lien, “Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators” in Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 2012.
Music teachers often have busy professional lives, many spending large amounts of time back at school for extra-curricular activities, individual practices, ensemble rehearsals, events from marching band to musicals, and travel to/from festivals, conferences, concerts, adjudications, and itinerant school assignments. Also unique is the fact that some music educators participate in after-school programs and see their “charges” as much or more often their parents. These once-in-a-lifetime musical opportunities inspire the growth of student artistry, leadership, creative self-expression, and teamwork. They also expose music teachers to more frequent contact with potential ethical issues ― inconsistencies, dilemmas, and problems.
From a “crisis of conscience” to political nightmares, there are no easy right or wrong answers to many of these ethical “conundrums!” Full discussion and disclosure with the goal on addressing “the needs of the students” are mandatory with the quick educational sketches depicted in the following scenarios.
- Administrators, parents and public’s interpretation of “separation of church and state” or “perceived emphasis” on Holiday vs. Christmas music (with sacred text) at December concerts e.g. Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, Hatikvah, and/or John Rutter’s Oh Come All Ye Faithful & Joy to the World as the finale
- Defending a music educator’s grading criteria: daily performance evaluation vs. lesson or concert attendance (pass/fail?) and other non-musical requirements
- Identification of the poorest singers or instrumentalists in our ensembles and limiting their enrollment or participation in ensembles that regularly attend adjudications or competitions: “Do the needs of the few less proficient performers out-weigh the benefit of the many?” or “Are our ethical obligations met if a large non-auditioned ensemble is open to all and an auditioned group is provided for exclusive use of the best students?”
- Rationale for the unbiased selection of solos, leadership positions, drum majors, leads in the musical, etc. for the music program: perception of teacher favoritism or the “rights of seniority” vs. “best one for the job!”
- Incidents relating to a music teacher’s struggle over whether to be “blatantly honest” regarding a student’s chances at a music career: “Is it ethical to allow a private music student to continue the study of music performance based on their desire, when it is clear they do not have the talent, work ethic, or overall aptitude to succeed in the music profession?” The other side of this issue, can we ever say, “You do not have enough talent to go into music.”
- Maintaining balance between the pursuit of competitive performance excellence (repetitive programming of a limited number of major works) with appropriate teaching practice (survey, reading, and performance of a wide variety of selections in the folder)
- Quandary whether it is ever in the students’ best interest to ignore an existing policy or rule, for example, staff noncompliance of “no smoking on campus” or other school regulations.
- Holding a student accountable for breaking a law or rule, when doing so would jeopardize a musical group’s performance: “My drum major was suspended because she smoked pot and was caught. I needed her to run the half time show we had been practicing for months and so I convinced administration that she had to participate because it was part of my curriculum and part of her grade. I decided the other kids shouldn’t be punished because of her idiocy so I worked hard to keep her in the show. In my heart, I would have preferred she not participate, but not at the expense of the other kids’ performance.”
- “Fair use doctrine” and photocopying music
It should be mentioned here that there are a number of misconceptions regarding the Copyright Law:
- Copyright law does permit copying music in the emergency of an imminent concert date, but it also requires that the same music be purchased regardless of whether it is needed after the performance.
- The law prohibits purchasing music but then making copies to preserve the original scores.
- The law does not permit photocopying more than 10% of a complete work, even for educational purposes.
- Out-of-print music may not be photocopied without explicit permission granted by the publisher of the work.
- Compositions with an expired copyright or that never had a copyright are considered “public domain” and are free to copy.
Finances and Resource Allocation Problems
- Competition for the enrollment of the same students (band/string/choir) within the music department
- Private lesson prerequisite for participating in an honors ensemble, music director giving them, and charging a fee for his/her “off-school” time
- (Lack of) equity in school budget allocation (inconsistencies within different academic areas and within the music department itself, not defending per-pupil costs and enrollments, etc.)
- Receiving special favors or kickbacks from the music industry (touring companies, riser/music stand distributors, instrument rental companies, etc.): “If you choose our travel agency for the Orlando trip, we will throw-in the purchase of a new conductor’s podium and music stands for your band room!”
Scrutiny and sample audits of music educators and other school professionals in this category have included the following:
- Accuracy of teachers’ absence reports and itinerant staff sign-ins to their daily building assignments: “I saw the music teacher eating lunch at a local restaurant.”
- Balancing of school purchase orders and activity fund invoices with existing instrument, equipment, or music inventory
- Management of school activity funds (tickets, marching band shoes/accessories, honorariums, and “under the table” compensations)
- Inspection of music libraries for evidence of illegal photocopying
Problems in Relationships
- Perception of “being knifed in the back“ by colleagues teaching other academic subjects (advising students to drop music)
- Disagreements with administrators on “the right thing to do” (everything from grading to attending PMEA workshops)
- Incidents involving gossip or divulging confidential information about students
- THE BIG BOO-BOO: Dual or conflicting relationships and inconsistent maintenance of clear, responsible, and professional boundaries between teachers and students. Most of the incidents in violation of “crossing the line” of “student-teacher boundaries” would be complications that arose when the teacher-student relationships became “too close.”
Was Mr. Holland a hero or a villain in the 1995 movie Mr. Holland’s Opus? Certainly, many would agree that the acclaimed motion picture starring Richard Dreyfuss as “Glenn Holland” depicted a struggling composer who reluctantly becomes a teacher and eventually learns the value of his profession and his family. However, many say he is a model example of the “slippery slope” of blurred student-teacher boundaries and that he seriously breached the ethical standards of teachers.
It wasn’t Mr. Holland’s in-class performance that concerns Troy Hutchings, director of Student Services in Northern Arizona University’s College of Education and a faculty member in the college. It’s his relationship with Rowena, one of his students. In a famous scene at a bus stop, Mr. Holland and Rowena kiss.
“He should be fired,” Hutchings said. “That’s sexual misconduct—a violation of his fiduciary position.”
Mr. Holland’s situation isn’t atypical. The Richard Dreyfuss character had a troubled marriage and a difficult home life. “Right or wrong, he found something with his students that he felt he didn’t have at home,” Hutchings said.
Imagine if one of us drove our “star pupil” to the bus stop on her way to “make it big on Broadway” without the direct support of her parents!
Problems in Diversity
- Sensitivity in meeting the needs of ALL students: no discrimination on the basis of race, gender & gender identity, ethnic origin, religious beliefs, socio-economics, etc.
- Balanced representation of lesson targets and course material on multiculturalism
- “Many of our students see music education as ‘white privilege’ and we have to do a lot of convincing to get the kids to participate…”
For all music teachers, it is recommended you peruse the position statement on the NAfME website: “Equity and Access in Music Education” https://nafme.org/about/position-statements/equity-access/.
More Issues in Music Education
If you have not had the occasion to read Case Studies in Music Education by Frank Abrahams and Paul D. Head, it would be a valuable aid to “facilitate dialogue, problem posing, and problem solving” among pre-service (and current) music teachers. Using the format of Introduction, Exposition, Development, Improvisation, and Recapitulation known by all music professionals, each chapter presents a scenario with a moral dilemma that many music educators face in the daily execution of their teaching responsibilities.
How should a music teacher balance learning and performing? What is the best way to handle an angry parent? What are the consequences of the grades teachers assign? What are the best ways to discipline students? How should teachers relate to the administrators and to other teachers? The emphasis here is not on the solution, but on the process. There are many viable approaches to nearly every obstacle, but before any meaningful long-term solutions can be made, teachers must identify their own personal philosophy of music education and recognize those traits that are admirable in another’s style.
―Excerpt from back cover of Case Studies in Music Education, Second Edition, by Frank Abrahams and Paul D. Head
Scenarios: How Would You Judge These “Misconducts?”
For additional examples of ethical issues in education, try these links. Personally, many of these fictional video reenactments are hardcore and very painful to view… but may shed some light in any discussion of teacher (mis)behavior: actions from simply inappropriate, unwise, or “bad for appearances” to a range (from bad to worst) of unprofessional, immoral, unethical, and illegal conduct. Some of these stories you will agree should be instantly labeled as the highest degree of unethical practice ― actual “crimes against children” and should invoke punishment if found guilty ― while others may lack clarity and make it difficult in arriving to a consensus.
If you are sharing this article within a group (induction, staff meeting, in-service, etc.), besides selecting the degree of misconduct, you may also want to reflect on the following questions (and also peruse the “essential questions” following the conclusion below.)
- What possible issues/concerns might this scenario raise?
- How could this situation become a violation of the law, the “Code” or other school/district policies?
- In this situation, what are some potential negative consequences for the teacher and the student?
From the Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission Ethics Toolkit:
The Ethics Equilibrium Perspective
Keep in mind, discussions about any scenarios of possible educator misconduct should be viewed through the lens of an ethical framework for professional decision-making, not just violations of regulatory policies resulting in the consequences of disciplinary action, revocation of teaching certificate, and/or criminal penalties. As mentioned before (“Ethics for Music Educators – Part I and Part II”), please review Troy Hutchings work:
After culling through a myriad of research (see below), I summarize with a few of my quick “common sense” recommendations which I offer at music teacher conferences or in-service workshop presentations. What are your thoughts on these?
- Never put anything in email, text, writing, or anywhere on the Internet that can come back to haunt you.
- Do not engage in gossip about other students or professionals.
- Avoid unofficial/unsupervised meetings or off-campus personal fraternization with students.
- Do not transport individual students.
- Do not share photos or personal information on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Gab, etc.).
- Avoid physical contact with a student (never touch, hug, hold, push, etc.).
- In your presence, allow no harassment or speech/language that is of a sexual nature or can be misinterpreted.
- Do not provide closed-door counseling.
- Do not give gifts to your students.
- Report serious medical issues to the authorities (bulimia, abuse, alcohol-use).
- Report any suspected professional ethics violations of colleagues to administration.
The purpose of this three-part blog-post on “Ethics for Music Educators” and studies like “Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators” by Joelle L. Lien in Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, was to investigate the kinds of ethical problem-solving music educators face in their daily work and to promote thought-provoking discussion about these matters. Now it is your turn to face these critical issues and/or incidents, openly investigate and illuminate philosophical inconsistencies within your institutions, associations, schools, and/or colleagues, and develop your own “iron-clad” professional code of ethics that truly addresses the daily work of your music education practice.
Additional Discussion: Essential Questions for All Educators
- What are the ethical responsibilities of teachers?
- How do ethics inform a teacher’s personal and professional actions?
- How does the PA Code of Professional Practices and Conduct (or your state’s educator code of conduct) communicate standards for appropriate behavior for teachers?
- What does it mean to be a “moral exemplar” or “role model” in the community?
- What are the expectations of educators with respect to accumulating either personal or financial gain or advantage (other than their contractual compensation package) through their work in the school system?
- How can a teacher foster positive, professional relationships with students?
- How is the appropriate teacher-student boundary defined?
- What are the professional expectations of teachers with regard to their “electronic” interactions with students?
- Why and how should teachers control their public “brand” or persona?
- How do teachers’ use of emerging technologies such as social networking, cell phones, etc., present challenges to maintaining appropriate student-teacher boundaries?
- What are the professional expectations for working with diverse populations of students, parents and colleagues?
- How does your classroom environment promote respect for your students’ individual needs and backgrounds?
- What are the professional expectations of teachers regarding their relationships with colleagues?
- How can a teacher foster positive, professional relationships with colleagues, parents, and the community?
Special Thanks and Credits for This Three-part Blog-Series
- Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit by Dr. Oliver Dreon, Sandi Sheppeard, PA State System of Higher Education, and the PA Professional Standards and Practices Commission
- Nebraska Professional Practices Commission
- Connecticut’s Teacher Education & Mentoring Program
- Lien, Joelle L. (2012). Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education
References for Further Research
- Abrahams, Frank and Paul Head. (2005). Case studies in music education (2nd ed.). Chicago: G.I.A.
- Allan, J. (2011). Responsibly Competent: Teaching, Ethics and Diversity. Policy Futures in Education, 9(1), 130-137.
- Assaf, L., Garza, R., & Battle, J. (2010). Multicultural Teacher Education: Examining the Perceptions, Practices, and Coherence in One Teacher Preparation Program. Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(2), 115-135.
- Barbieri, Susan M. (2002). An elegy for ethics? Strings 16(8): 62–67.
- Bowman, Wayne. (2001). Music as ethical encounter. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education 151: 11–20.
- Brandenburg, Judith B. (1997). Confronting sexual harassment: What schools and colleges can do. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Brooks, David (April 17, 2015). When Cultures Shift. New York Times.
- Campbell, E. (2003). The Ethical Teacher. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
- Dreon, Dr. Oliver, Sheppeard, Sandi, and PA State System of Higher Education. Educator Ethics and Conduct and Toolkit. Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission. Online: http://www.pspc.education.pa.gov/Promoting-Ethical-Practices-Resources/Ethics-Toolkit/Pages/default.aspx
- Ehrensal, P., Crawford, R., Castellucci, J., & Allen, G. (2001). The American Melting Pot Versus the Chinese Hot Spot. in J. Shapiro & J. Stefkovich (Eds.), Ethical Leadership and Decision Making in Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Elliott, David J. (1995). Music matters: A new philosophy of music education. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Fibkins, W. L. (2006) Innocence Denied: A Guide to Preventing Sexual Misconduct by Teachers and Coaches. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
- Flusser, Victor. (2000). An ethical approach to music education. British Journal of Music Education 171(1): 43–50.
- Gilligan, C. (1982). In A Different Voice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Golann, Stuart E. (1969). Emerging areas of ethical concern. American Psychologist 24: 454–459.
- Goree, K., Pyle, M., Baker, E. & Hopkins, J. (2007). Education Ethics Applied. Boston: Pearson Education.
- Gregg, Jean W. (1997). From song to speech: On the ethics of teaching voice. Journal of singing: The official journal of the National Association of Teachers of Singing 54(1): 55–57.
- Hutchings, Troy (2015). “Ethics in Education” Vimeo https://vimeo.com/126979216.
- Hutchings, Troy and Thompson, David (2016). “Ethical Equilibrium.” AACTE Professional Development https://secure.aacte.org/apps/rl/res_get.php?fid=3005&ref=ets.
- Johnson, L. S. (2012). Guidelines for Dealing with Educator Sexual Misconduct. National Association of Independent Schools. Retrieved from https://http://www.nais.org/Articles/Documents/Educator_Sexual_Misconduct_12_finaledits.pdf
- Johnson, Tara Star (2008). From Teacher to Lover: Sex Scandals in the Classroom. New York
- Jorgensen, Estelle R. (2003). Transforming music education. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
- Kohlberg, L. (1981). Essays on Moral Development: The Philosophy of Moral Development. New York: Harper Collins.
- Krause, J., Traini, D., & Mickey, B. (2001). Equality versus Equity. in J. Shapiro & J. Stefkovich (Eds.), Ethical Leadership and Decision Making in Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Lecroy, Hoyt. (1992). Imparting values: A challenge for educators. Music Educators Journal 79(1): 33–36.
- Lien, Joelle L. (2012). Ethical Dilemmas of In-Service Music Educators. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education. Online: http://act.maydaygroup.org/articles/Lien11_1.pdf.
- Mark, Michael L. and Madura, Patrice (2010). Music Education in Your Hands. Routledge.
- MENC. (2003). The United States Copyright Law: A Guide for Music Educators. Online: http://www.menc.org/resources/view/united-states-copyright-law-a-guide-for-music-educators. December 4, 2010.
- MENC. (May 1973). Music Code of Ethics Music Educators Journal Vol. 59, No. 9.
- Milner, H. (2010). What Does Teacher Education Have to Do with Teaching? Implications for Diversity Studies. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 118-131.
- Murray, Dave. (December 23, 2010). Are teachers role models outside the classroom? Unions, courts say educators deserve privacy. M Live Media Group. Online: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/12/are_teachers_role_models_outsi.html.
- Myers, K (2005). Teachers Behaving Badly. New York: RoutledgeFarmer.
- National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. Model Code of Ethics for Educators. Online: http://www.nasdtec.net/?page=MCEE_Doc.
- Nourse, Nancy (2003). The ethics of care and the private woodwind lesson. Journal of Aesthetic Education 37(3): 58–77.
- O’Neill, J., & Bourke, R. (2010). Educating Teachers About a Code of Ethical Conduct. Ethics & Education, 5(2), 159-172.
- Pope, Kenneth S. and Valerie A. Vetter. (1992). Ethical dilemmas encountered by members of the American Psychological Association: A national survey. American Psychologist 47(3): 397–411.
- Pring, R. (2001). Education As A Moral Practice. Journal of Moral Education, 30(2): 101-112
- Regelski, Thomas A. (2011). Ethical implications of music education as a helping profession. Nordic Research in Music Education. Yearbook Vol. 13 2011, 221-232.
- Richmond, John W. (1996). Ethics and the philosophy of music education. Journal of Aesthetic Education 30(3): 3–22.
- Roberts, Brian A. (2009). Ethics in Music Education. The Canadian Music Educator. Excerpt online: https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P3-1923294611/ethics-in-music-education.
- Rodriguez, Carols Xavier. (2012). Ethics in Music Education. Action, Criticism, & Theory for Music Education. Online: http://act.maydaygroup.org/articles/Rodriguez11_1.pdf.
- Simpson, R. Eric. (2010). An examination of the relationship of teacher certification area to sexual misconduct: Florida as a case study. Journal of Music Teacher Education 20(1): 56–65.
- Staratt, R. (2004). Ethical Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Stein, Nan D. and Lisa Sjostrom. (1994). Flirting or hurting? A teacher’s guide to student-to-student sexual harassment in schools (Grades 6 through 12). Washington, DC: National Education Association. (ED 380 415)
- Stufft, William D. (1997). Two rules for professional conduct. Music Educators Journal 84, 40–42.
- Szego, C. K. (2005). Praxial foundations of multicultural music education. In Praxial music education: Reflections and dialogues, ed. David J. Elliott, 196–218. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Volk, Terese M. (1998). Music, education, and multiculturalism: Foundations and principles. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Woodford, Paul G. (2005). Democracy and music education: Liberalism, ethics, and the politics of practice. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press
- Wynne, E.A. (1995). The moral dimension of teaching. In A.C. Ornstein (Ed.) Teaching: Theory into practice. (pp. 190-202). Boston: Alyn and Bacon
Special thanks and credits go to Dr. Oliver Dreon, Associate Professor at Millersville University (in Pennsylvania), and one of the authors of the Pennsylvania’s Educator Ethics and Conduct Toolkit, the source of much of the research, quotes, and perspective of this three-part series.
© 2017 Paul K. Fox
Photo credits (in order) from FreeImages.com: “Ethics” by Olivier Le Moal, “Colorful Xylophone” by Henk L, “Listening to Music” by Ned Horton, “Music 3” by Carol Kramberger, “Music” by Ricardo Vasquez, “Parade Band” by Sarah DeVries, “Girl with Guitar” by Stacy Brumley, “Kids Singing Christmas Songs” by Ned Horton, “Playing Harp” by Gerrit Prenger, and “Brass Tubas” by Aron Kremer