Deciding on Only One Wicked Problem

According to John C. Camillus, “A wicked problem has innumerable causes, is tough to describe, and doesn’t have a right answer,” (Harvard Business Review, 2008). There are plenty of them in the world, and many in education alone. When I completed my
quickfire activity I discussed in my blog post Asking Questions, I was left with several questions about the music program in my district (Luft, 2019). Most are problems that are actively being discussed, but one did not. Specifically, how do we best support students with religious exemptions to music and/or musical activities?

Students performing Jingle Bells in December 2018. Photo by the author.

I have various students who have told me they cannot perform music or dance for various religious reasons, and I know I am not the only music educator who experiences this. At one building, if the student’s guardians send in a letter stating music is against their beliefs, the student is sent to the library for the 80 minutes a week the rest of their class is in music. Is this the best policy?

This week I created a survey to hear from music educators from around the country to hear what they do in similar scenarios. I am hopeful that if I am able to gather information from various areas I can get a better picture of how this affects music programs and find solutions that may best serve all students.


Camillus, John C. (2008, May). Strategy as a Wicked Problem. Retrieved from:

Luft, Lindsay. (2019, March 24). Asking Questions. Retrieved from:


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