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Why return to music education?

Everybody benefits from music education
Everybody benefits from music education
Catherine Hill

One of the first programs thrown out of any ‘teach to the test’ school is music. In fact, most of the school staples graduates remember as ‘fun’ – art, sewing, cooking, wood crafting – are heaved out because it is not easy to build a standardized, multiple-choice test for any one of them. We remove most of the hands-on, readily enjoyable content from our schools and still want kids to learn. All stick, no carrot.

Admittedly, my teacher education classes were all in the ‘way back’, but one precept I saw proved by experience – the more senses you involve, the better people remember. This works with adults, too. The more people can touch and be involved in any project, the better they learn the subject.

In elementary school, periodic group singing used to be the norm. According to the Children’s Music Workshop , even this simple activity can improve language development.

“Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.”

By upper elementary school, you get to the money sink of school band – a money sink if you’re a Councilman or Board Member who simply doesn’t care about learning and graduation rates. Here I have some personal experience, having been a band parent from 1982 to 1986. Kids love music and the opportunity to perform, and you can teach them almost anything if they think they’re having fun. I saw a very diverse group of kids work together, help each other, and work toward common goals in the interest of their band. The relatively few band parents who helped make the program work became almost surrogate parents, sometimes embraced by eager youngsters. Sometimes band is the only reason kids stay In school to graduate.

Oh, yes, there’s serious learning involved, and somebody could even standardize a test on it if they wanted to. Can you read music? Which clef, or how many clefs? Can you read a common time designation or a key signature? You have to learn at least some of those things to be part of a band.

But schools aren’t meant to teach kids to interact or be part of anything – or apparently have any life except for drudge work. Anything that can’t be measured is unnecessary for life as a good consumer.

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