The Importance of Music in Our Schools
By Debra Levy
When we hear about music and other art programs in our school curriculum, most of us are guilty of putting it aside. For example, the focus is then put on the basic or standard studies in schools such as reading, writing and arithmetic. Little do a lot of us know that the importance of including music in that list is as crucial as the others.
Programs are being cut from school budgets at an alarming rate to save money, i.e. physical education, art and music classes. There is already a whole generation of teachers and parents who haven’t had the advantages of arts in their own education. Many teachers don’t know how to include any kind of art in their teaching these days and parents don’t know how to ask for it.
Studies have shown that including musical studies such as learning to play an instrument or class sing-alongs and even drama have impacted the way children learn and process knowledge.
Stated from an interview with Tom Home, Arizona’s state superintendent of public instruction, “There’s lots of evidence that kids immersed in the arts do better on their academic tests.”
The connection of math and music is in the note reading for instance. Quarter, half and whole notes can be applied to fractions, and numbers as well as symbols can also apply to mathematics. The word reading in songs can apply to languages arts, just to mention a couple of ways music is useful in academics, says Dr. Diana Hollinger, Music Education Instructor, San Jose State University.
In 2006 a national survey found that in the five years after enactment of NCLB, that 44% of the school districts increased time spent on academic classes like English language arts and math and decreased time on other subjects. The follow-up analysis in Feb. 2008 showed that 16% of the school districts decreased class time for music and art. In California participation in music courses dropped 46% from 1999-2000 through 2000-2004 and total enrollment increased 6%.
It is known that we are still feeling the impact from Proposition 13 from the 1970’s. This is partly because we tend to cut art programs instead of what is visually seen first like transcripts or report cards before the long term effects are realized. There is a primitive approach to music classes in schools to this day and by reading the studies out there and seeing the growth of technology, maybe there is a more modern way to go about teaching these skills to our kids. For instance. the Hilltop High School in the Sweetwater District in California, has introduced electronic music courses to their students and they are learning music without even knowing it.
“After all we ask our kids to read Shakespeare, why don’t we still teach Mozart? It’s the classics we aspire to not the comic book level learning that we want for our students.” Samuel Hope, executive director of the National Association of Schools and Music, says that the five ways we communicate and organize thought is first in letters and words, which is our language. The second is numbers and symbols which is mathematics.
And the next three are still images like architecture and design, moving images like in dance and film and abstract sound that is in music. The emphasis is only driven to the first two as it appears most obvious of the outcome. Children still have the thirst for performing and teaching each other music, they show it in their ipods and other electronic devices that they carry or possess. So keeping music classes in schools seems more important than ever.
Do we want superheros to inspire our children or real heros of history like Mozart and Bach? I think the answer is more simple than we think. The arts feed on each other and develop self esteem and confidence. It is also known for the development of social interaction, small and large motor skills. For instance, children can learn as a group and dancing or playing an instrument helps develop social and motor skills alike.
These budget cuts are taking the opportunities to learn through different mediums right of our childrens hands. Besides not being able to teach them how to work together, like in a large group such as a music class, they don’t learn simple tasks like taking turns, listening for their cue to participate and the respect of personal property, like instruments.
They are missing out on developing crucial social skills. These are ALL important to their overall development. Often music classes involve such things as clapping of hands, stomping of feet, basic dancing and singing at the top of your lungs; who wouldn’t have fun doing that? Some studies have shown that developmentally or physically challenged children have responded very positively to music programs and that breathing and speech disabilities improved over time. For example, using these skills in therapy, it helps to develop breathing and hand mouth coordination.
For the first time in thirty years in the Dallas Independent School District students receive forty-five minutes a week of art and music instruction. Gigi Antoni, president and CEO of Big Thought which is a non-profit with the district, explained the rationale behind what was then called the Dallas Arts Learning Initiative: “DALI was created with the idealistic and meticulously researched premise that students would flourish when creativity drives learning.”
And more than sixty other local arts and cultural institutions agreed with this statement. Following suit throughout the United States is something to strive for in the future given the astounding studies done on this subject floating out there. It is understood after reading several of these studies that music is indeed an importance in the growth of our children and music should be kept in the core curriculum of their studies.
Debra Levy is student at Front Range Community College. EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an online-only column and has not been edited.
Read more: The importance of music in schools – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_14992491?source=pop#ixzz2YfqJLOpA
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