Nova Scotian Roots: Teaching Cultural Imperialism through Music Education
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The colonial history of Nova Scotia is a complex web of power, violence, and displacement that is often not acknowledged at an institutional level. The impact of this history has left a permanent imprint on the social and political fabric of the province, creating a hierarchy of racial knowledge. The Nova Scotia elementary music curriculum offers a dynamic site to explore the ways in which that hierarchy was built through colonialism and how it shaped and continues to shape the province’s education system. My thesis examines the degree to which the Nova Scotia music curriculum addresses the impact of the province’s colonial history, and how teachers navigate and interpret its content. By conducting an analysis of the Nova Scotian curriculum and interviewing music educators, I consider the ways that Halifax’s musical life has been portrayed in its schools. My thesis does this by addressing the following question: how do music educators interpret and navigate the music curriculum? In answering this question I find that music educators in the public school system are mostly white. Music educators are given an incredibly broad curriculum to interpret and use in whichever way they deem most appropriate. In other words, music educators in Nova Scotia can include diverse content in their classrooms if they feel it is relevant or important. If they decide not to include diverse content, the experience of non-white students is sidelined, and non-white local music, like African Nova Scotian music, remains absent.