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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Music education is vital

    Mike Morefield/columnist
    Mike Morefield/columnist

    Public education has been in the national spotlight lately, whether it be in the form of the No Child Left Behind Act or the numerous reports released by the U.S. Department of Education citing the inadequacies of state-mandated curricula and funding. With U.S. test scores increasingly falling behind those of other industrialized nations, the country must take steps to improve the quality of education in its public schools if it hopes to continue creating productive members of a global society.

    One of the most visible symptoms of a crisis in public education is the nationwide underfunding and elimination of music programs. Music education is one of the most critical programs in schools, and yet it is slowly disappearing from primary curricula. Elementary and junior high schools are steadily losing their music classes because short funding means the elimination of “”nonessential”” programs.

    California has been among the first states to recognize the error in viewing music education as expendable. A study released two years ago found a 50 percent decrease in the number of students in music programs in the state between 1999 and 2004 – a loss of nearly half a million students. Governor Schwarzenegger has attempted to remedy this situation by proposing a $100 million program to rebuild K-12 art and music programs – a direct reversal of the 1978 plan that has been responsible for the erosion of those programs over the last three decades.

    Here in Tucson, junior high school music programs are struggling to survive with little to no administrative support. Mike Wilkinson, the band instructor at Doolen Middle School, receives no financial support from his school. He gets a paycheck, but the buck stops there – he relies entirely on grants and scholarships to buy the music, instruments and other equipment he needs to run the program.

    Students who were involved in music scored 63 points higher on the verbal portion of the SAT than other students and 44 points higher on the math section.

    Why would a school pay for a teacher for a program it can’t fund? Because schools recognize the importance of music education, even if they’re unable to afford it. According to the National Association for Music Education, “”Arts education benefits the student because it cultivates the whole child, gradually building many kinds of literacy while developing intuition, reasoning, imagination and dexterity into unique forms of expression and communication.””

    Those assertions are backed up by hard evidence: The College Entrance Examination Board found that students who were involved in music scored 63 points higher on the verbal portion of the SAT than other students and 44 points higher on the math section. Furthermore, the processes fostered by music education, such as language acquisition, help create productive members of a global society, the most important goal of any school. Nevertheless, music programs are indiscriminately axed from school budgets as though they were academic dead weight.

    Beyond traditional educational benefits, curriculum that incorporates music education lends students emotional support. In overcrowded schools, music class is often the only time students get close attention in a small environment. As elementary music education senior Katye Brees explained, “”It’s not so much for book smarts, but for the emotional support that (students) usually lack to become socially adept.””

    Brees has seen firsthand the psychological benefits of music education by observing her students and said that schools without music programs are sorely handicapped. Instead of submitting a book report and receiving a grade days later, students in the musical classroom can receive immediate personal attention from their teachers; the reward of such a process is far greater than a letter grade stamped across a report’s cover.

    Even though there is ample evidence that music education provides advantages to students, schools continue to cut funding for such programs. By removing vital programs that are instrumental in creating well-rounded citizens, such cuts deliver strong blows to already weakened public school systems. Music programs must be given the attention and money they deserve, or our children will fall even farther behind in the global community.


    Mike Morefield is a political science senior and former elementary school band kid. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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