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Sat Oct 11, 2014, 10:59 PM

A Musical Fix for American Schools


American education is in perpetual crisis. Our students are falling ever farther behind their peers in the rest of the world. Learning disabilities have reached epidemic proportions, affecting as many as one in five of our children. Illiteracy costs American businesses $80 billion a year.

Many solutions have been tried, but few have succeeded. So I propose a different approach: music training. A growing body of evidence suggests that music could trump many of the much more expensive “fixes” that we have thrown at the education system.

Plenty of outstanding achievers have attributed at least some of their success to music study. Stanford University’s Thomas Sudhof, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine last year, gave credit to his bassoon teacher. Albert Einstein, who began playing the violin at age 6, said his discovery of the theory of relativity was “the result of musical perception.”

Until recently, though, it has been a chicken-and-egg question: Are smart, ambitious people naturally attracted to music? Or does music make them smart and ambitious? And do musically trained students fare better academically because they tend to come from more affluent, better educated families?

New research provides some intriguing answers. Music is no cure-all, nor is it likely to turn your child into a Nobel Prize winner. But there is compelling evidence that it can boost children’s academic performance and help fix some of our schools’ most intractable problems.

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Reply A Musical Fix for American Schools (Original post)
antigop Oct 2014 OP
AwakeAtLast Oct 2014 #1

Response to antigop (Original post)

Sun Oct 12, 2014, 08:36 AM

1. I would love to see that pursued

Sadly, Music education is one of the first things to be cut, right behind physical education and art.

I am speaking from experience. Five years ago my district cut a Music Teacher position, which meant that my student load went from 750 to 1500 (you read that number correctly)! It has been truly awful, the kids hate it, and I thought I was going to lose my mind.

The only thing that changed my schedule was our new evaluation system. They had to include the other teacher to help take over some of my load so that when we measure the growth of our Standard Learning Objective, we would show the same amount of growth. What they have conveniently forgotten is that my students have missed out on about two and a half years of music instruction. Somehow I'm supposed to make up for that and show the same growth that the other teacher will. Yes, my union rep. is on speed dial right now

There is a district around here that offered DAILY music instruction to their students (as opposed to weekly, which is normal - or every other week like me, which is not normal). I spoke with one of their teachers. He said that by the time they would get to him (8th Grade), every single student could sight read music, improvise and compose. Their test score are the highest in the state. And sadly again, that district cut some of their positions recently and no longer give daily music instruction. I wonder how long before their test scores slip.

Learning to read music means that you have to read two different languages at once - melody and rhythm. Melody focuses on the direction of pitches, rhythm focuses on the duration sound. Learning to put the two together is what really begins the expansion of learning in the brain.

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