…Or “Maybe things aren’t all that bad in the United States, after all.”
While browsing for music ed news this weekend, I stumbled across a pretty depressing item from Kuwait. Essentially, a hardline Islamist MP is taking the government to task over their recent decision to make music education a compulsory part of the Kuwaiti curriculum. Mohammed Hayef has said that unless the schools revert to the old system, where music was an elective and not a requirement, he and his party will submit a bill in an attempt to ban music from schools completely.
Talk about culture shock. If a similar measure were even discussed in most other countries, an angry mob bearing pitchforks and torches would likely appear in the streets of the capital. Music is such an important part of cultures around the world, that it’s impossible to fathom music being banned from schools. Funding may be cut when times are tough, but an outright ban, to say that students can not participate in music even if the resources exist, is unthinkable.
Badrya Darwish of the Kuwait Times has published an excellent rebuttal to Hayef. She feels that banning music would essentially destroy a large part of Kuwaiti culture. Students across the country would not be taught about a large part of their cultural history, and would begin to lose their cultural identity.
It’s interesting that humans tend to place such a high premium on creativity and innovation, yet the very classes that help foster these traits—visual arts, writing, music, etc.—are often the first on the chopping block and are such a heated point of contention. Cuts to the creative areas of a curriculum are bad enough, but threatening an outright ban seems like a step toward a cultural Dark Age for Kuwait.
I’m going to make sure to keep tabs on this particular story. It’s entirely possible that Hayef has underestimated the power of music and could face a serious outcry from citizens should he go through with his plans. Outlawing something that tends to help give people a sense of cultural uniqueness is never a good idea.
A quick look back through history would show Hayef that music was not solely used for entertainment, but for protest and activism as well. Shostakovich was famously denounced twice for compositions that the ruling Soviet regime found to be subversive. Victor Jara and Quilapayun used their music—specifically, ¡El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido!—to speak out against Augusto Pinochet.
Music is a powerful voice, I doubt Hayef will be able to completely silence it in Kuwait.