In Cultural Literacy, What Every American Needs to Know (1988), E.D. Hirsch contended that there exists in the United States a body of information that is common knowledge for most literate Americans. He identified and defined this body of information, and called possession of this common knowledge “cultural literacy.” In an attempt to put Hirsch’s ideas about cultural literacy into practice, a sequential curriculum for grades K-6 called the Core Knowledge Sequence was developed by the Core Knowledge Foundation in 1990. The sequence specifies what information should be taught at each grade level and builds upon knowledge learned in previous years of schooling.
The purpose of this project was to describe and evaluate the second grade music section of the Core Knowledge Sequence and, based on the goals of multicultural music education and related skills selected from the National Standards of Arts Education, to develop criteria for the selection of specific multicultural offerings in music to be infused into classes at the second grade level. Three songs and two listening selections were employeed from each of the following nine areas: Native American, African American, Latin American, European, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East/North Africa, South Asia, East/Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. In order to guide students toward the development of musical skills and a broader cultural literacy, background information and instructional sequences accompanied each multicultural music selection. The importance of active music making was demonstrated through the instructional sequencing that accompanied each piece.
The Core Knowledge Foundation has attempted to recommend a specific musical repertoire in its music sequence but has been unsuccessful in determining which music of other cultures should be included; neither has there been any criteria established for such recommendation. The pieces selected for this project are not considered to be a definitive list but, rather, an offering of suggestions of what could work and why. The selection of high quality musical content is an important goal for every music teacher. The establishment of criteria helps to evaluate the selection of content and is perhaps more important than the specific pieces chosen as it gives others the necessary tools for choosing pieces that would work best in their own teaching situations.