Why is Music Basic? The Value of Music Education

July 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm Leave a comment

Why is Music Basic? The Value of Music Education.

The value of music education is being questioned like never before. When there are more demands than money to meet those demands it forces administrators to make choices. It forces them to place a value on each subject area.

There is a demand for greater concentration upon the traditional basics: English, math, science and history. There is also a new focus on computer competency and a renewed focus on the need for a foreign language. Add to this health education, family life education, industrial arts education, AIDS education, home economics, physical education and business education and one wonders where music education fits in.

Plato once said, “Education in music is most sovereign because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find there way to the inmost should and take strongest hold upon it, bringing with them and imparting grade if one is rightly trained. Why has the value of music education eroded so dramatically from Plato’s position on music education to today’s position?

The idea of music education is good. Few will say they don’t want their kids to know something about music. But few will say they don’t want their kids to know something about the “3-R’s” & maybe a lot about the “3-R’s” and a little about history and science.

And, few want to extend school days or pay the taxes necessary to increase teachers salaries to extend the day. Why should music be a part of basic education? Why should it be up there with English, math and science? Ernest Boyer says the “aesthetic literacy is as basic as linguistic literacy.”

He quotes John Ruskin who said that, “Great Nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts: the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.”

President Ronald Reagan said, “Civilizations are most often remembered for their art and thought.” He went on to say “I have always believed in the definition of an educated man or woman as one who could, if necessary, refound his or her civilization. That means we must teach our students more than hard facts and floppy disks. We must teach them the rich artistic inheritance of our culture and an appreciation of how fine music enriches both the student who studies it, and the society that produces it. The existence of strong music and fine arts curricula are important to keeping the humanities truly humanizing and liberal arts education, truly liberating.”

When as music educators must accept the challenge of educating the public. Educating the parents of our children in the value of music education is equally important to the other educating we do in the the classroom. One without the other will cause there to be a “fine ending” to music education instead of repeat signs and da capos.

1 Plato, Republic 2 Boyer, Ernest 3 Ruskin, John 4 Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America

The question was asked why music should be a part of basic education. Here are some of the reasons:

1. “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform” by the National Commissioner on Excellence in Education, recommends that high schools provide vigorous programs in the fine and performing arts.

2. The College Board Report “Academic Preparation for College” includes the arts as one of the six basics to be included in the school curriculum..

3. John Goodlad, author of “A Place Called School” views the arts as one of the “five givers” of human knowledge, along with mathematics and science, literature and language, society and social studies, and vocations.

4. Ernest Boyer’s “High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America,” lists the arts as second curriculum priority, after language, in the proposed core of common learning. This proposed core includes nine subject areas. He goes on to say that music is ranked first among subjects most liked by students and receives high rankings in the areas of importance and difficulty.

5. Howard Gardner’s “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences” states that there are seven forms of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. None of these ought to have priority over others. We must present and repeatedly reinforce why music is basic and share with the students and parents what our goals are.

“Why music in education?” Some of the reasons are:

1. Music contributes to the school and community environment (quality of life).

2. Music helps prepare students for a career and is an avocation.

3. Music makes the day more alive and interesting, which in turn leads to more learning.

4. Music combines behaviors to promote a higher order of thinking skills.

5. It provides a way to image and create, contribute to self-expression and creativity.

6. Music enriches life, it is a way to understand our cultural heritage as well as other past and present cultures. (see article by Bill Pharis)

7. Performing, consuming and composing are satisfying and rewarding activities.

8. Music contributes to sensitivity (see Gloria Kiester’s articleÑTeaching Music for “feelingful intelligence).

9. Music education provides for perceptualÑmotor development.

10. It encourages team work and cohesiveness.

11. It fosters creativity and individuality.

12. Music education adds to self-worth of participants.

13. Music education fosters discipline and commitment.

14. It is a major source of joy and achievement.

15. Music provides unique and distinct modes of learning (see article by Howard Gardner).

16. Music is a therapeutic outlet for human beings.

17. It is a predictor of life’s success (see article by National Association of Secondary School Principals).

18. It develops intelligence in other areas (see articles by Wendell Harrison, Howard Gardner, Malcom Browne and Tom Cohen).

19. To provide success for some students who have difficulty with other aspects of the school curriculum.

20. To help the student realize that not every aspect of quantifiable and that it is important to cope with the subjective.

21. The music program is very cost-effective (See Save Your Music Program, John L. Benham) What parent or child wouldn’t want the benefits of music education”


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