Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Keep Music in Our Schools

Fun fact: I was born legally deaf. An experimental surgery and three sets of tubes later, and I can hear a phone vibrating from two rooms away, or a dog barking across the street, or a whisper from a friend. My ears - through the grace of medical research - have heard an incredible variety of sounds over the last 20-some-odd years; my favorite being music.

Music is an art - one with many forms, functions, and frequencies. How many of us have a favorite song? Or genre of music? How many of us use music to relax, to energize us, or to express ourselves? In some way or another, I'd venture to say that music has played a role in all of our lives.

Don't believe me? How'd you learn the ABC's? Studies show that using music can significantly improve our ability to learn - especially science and math (if you can learn notes, you can learn fractions).

You'd be hard-pressed to find a superintendent who didn't agree in the value of arts education yet according to a 2006 report from the state of Illinois, "almost 20% of Illinois principals surveyed report having no arts program in their school (visual arts, theater, music or dance), and 28% of superintendents report that none of the four arts disciplines were considered part of the core curriculum in their school district."

When I was growing up, we had music once a week in elementary school. In middle school, a single school quarter was required in the arts over three years, and only one of my 32 high school courses needed to be in an arts discipline. With policies like that, it's easy to see why enrollment in music declines almost 75% between grades 6 and 12.

Music and other arts are should be more than just electives. According to the Americans for the Arts, the arts and culture industry generates in the ballpark of $166 billion dollars a year, supporting about 5.7 million full-time jobs in the United States. Educating young Americans in music and the arts won't only enhance their learning of "core" subjects, but could also prepare them for careers in a booming industry.

As Music in Our Schools Month draws to a close, I hope you'll take the time to consider the important role music plays in the lives of American children, and take a stand about the value of supporting the arts as an integral part of the curriculum in public schools.

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