Tuesday, October 14, 2014

WSJ: A Musical Fix for American Schools

Going through my morning routine, checking emails, coffee, breakfast,; my High School band director from Hudson, Iowa sent me yet another link on the connection between Music, Cognitive development and the cost of education. This time from Joane Lipman, former deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. She writes:

"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.”
After providing a brief outline of the various studies (many of which can be found on this website under Music Resources) she concludes:

"Yet music programs continue to be viewed as expendable. A 2011 analysis in the Journal of Economic Finance calculated that a K-12 school music program in a large suburban district cost $187 per student a year, or just 1.6% of the total education budget. That seems a reasonable price to pay for fixing some of the thorniest and most expensive problems facing American education. Music programs shouldn’t have to sing for their supper."

Place this comment in the context that a number of Minnesota schools, including a fairly large metropolitan public school district, have been cutting away funding for traditional instrumental music programs, all the while increasing funding for handheld technological gadgets, whose educational benefit are not merely unproven but actually discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  It gives encouragement that fiscally responsible long-term solutions stem from the expertise of educators and researchers.

Access Ms. Lipman's entire article here.

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