Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Alma Flor Ada

Second Advisor

Dennis E. Collins

Third Advisor

Susan Katz

Fourth Advisor

Nancy Jean Smith


Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, Suni Paz and six other leading children's musicians in the U.S contributed their experience to this study about the crucial role of music and singing for social justice in children's lives and its shrinking presence in U.S. pre-school and elementary schools. The study built its theoretical framework on arts and music education, transformative education, and folk and socially conscious children's music. Participatory research, based on the revolutionary education theories of Paulo Freire, guided the dialogues with the participants. These activist singer-songwriters were asked how they define social justice, how they involve children in singing, and what songs are especially effective in raising social consciousness with children. They were also asked which factors are causing the decline in children's singing in schools today, and what parents, teachers, teacher-educators, and musicians can do to help children develop greater self-expression, literacy, and social commitment through song-making. The findings revealed consensus about the power of music to convey the values of fairness and sharing among children. Other themes discussed were multiculturalism, overcoming biases, critical thinking, second language acquisition, and conflict resolution. Transformative song-making was found to involve a wide variety of skills: singing, song-leading, song-writing, storytelling, using games and humor, and performing. All are aimed at involving children in 1 participatory singing that is fun and helps them to imagine and create a more just world. The study found many factors that diminish music in schools, from the general impact of the media and consumerism to the specific ways that high stakes testing and the accountability movement are narrowing curriculum. It also provided an extensive list of suggestions from the participants on how to foster singing and music programs that address social justice in elementary schools and pre-schools, including an increased role for outside artists and musicians, better support for classroom teachers who lack confidence in song-making, and the reemphasis of children's music in teacher-preparation programs. The researcher concludes with specific recommendations for action directed to parents, elementary school teachers and administrators, teacher education institutions, and advocates of children's music and social justice education.