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Music and Social Justice

A Guide for Elementary Educators

Cathy Benedict

Publication Date - January 2021

ISBN: 9780190062132

168 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


In this book author Cathy Benedict challenges and reframes traditional ways of addressing many of the topics we have come to think of as social justice. Offering practical suggestions for helping both teachers and students think philosophically (and thus critically) about the world around them, each chapter engages with important themes through music making and learning as it presents scenarios, examples of dialogue with students, unit ideas and lesson plans geared toward elementary students (ages 6-14). Taken-for-granted subjects often considered beyond the understanding of elementary students such as friendship, racism, poverty, religion, and class are addressed and interrogated in such a way that honours the voice and critical thinking of the elementary student. Suggestions are given that help both teachers and students to pause, reflect and redirect dialogue with questions that uncover bias, misinformation and misunderstandings that too often stand in the way of coming to know and embracing difference. Guiding questions, which anchor many curricular mandates, are used throughout in order to scaffold critical and reflective thinking beginning in the earliest grades of elementary music education. Where does social justice reside? Whose voice is being heard and whose is being silenced? How do we come to think of and construct poverty? How is it that musics become used the way they are used? What happens to songs initially intended for socially driven purposes when their significance is undermined? These questions and more are explored encouraging music teachers to embrace a path toward socially just engagements at the elementary and middle school levels.


  • Focuses on strategies to implement social justice practices at the elementary and middle school levels
  • Offers legally-grounded arguments appropriate for school board presentations
  • Includes classroom-tested lesson plans

About the Author(s)

Cathy Benedict is Associate Professor of Music Education at Western University and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Social Justice and Music Education (2015)


"Benedict thoughtfully includes potential lessons and questioning strategies to engage students critically. She outlines the opportunities for student voices to be heard and notes the potential pitfalls along the way ... Overall, this book is effective in questioning existing practices and pointing to some directions forward for music education, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels." -- B. Haskett, CHOICE

"In Music and Social Justice, Cathy Benedict carefully challenges our commonly held assumptions about enacting child-centered, inclusive, and socially just practices in the music classroom. This book is more than a guide, it is a philosophical meditation in action written by an inspired music educator who makes visible the thinking that informs action and the action that informs thinking. Benedict inspires us to think differently, to observe closely, and act more mindfully." -- Carlos R. Abril, Professor of Music Education, University of Miami

"Cathy Benedict's book comes at a most needed time in our educational and political history. She provides resources for opening up topics of race, gender, socioeconomics, bullying and religion in music and across school classrooms. Benedict's book offers many practical strategies for teaching social justice in K-8 music and beyond. This book might make teachers uncomfortable, but in a very welcoming way." -- Maud Hickey, author of Music Outside the Lines: Ideas for Composing in K-12 Music Classrooms

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1 - Listening and Responding: Dialogue in Practice

    Chapter 2 - Communicating Justice and Equity: Meeting the Other

    Chapter 3 - Friendship and Bullying: Interrogating Forced Narratives

    Chapter 4 - Soundscapes: Listening for Meaningful Relationships - In Conversation with Kelly Bylica

    Chapter 5 - Educating for Intelligent Belief or Unbelief

    Chapter 6 - Politics of Song

    Chapter 7 - Policy and Teaching: Establishing Change - In Conversation with Patrick Schmidt