Arts education in the United States is lagging behind the rest of the developed world; a recent National Report Card showed American students averaged 147 of 300 in music, a score that would equal a big red “F” in any real-world classroom setting. The Trump Administration’s recent announcement of further budget cuts to arts education in public schools, including but not limited to music, has a lot of people worried, as well they should be. Music teachers are concerned about losing their jobs, and this is one cut that is likely to have the most detrimental effect on education and childhood development. This is where the change must start.
What Is So Great About Music Education?
Almost everybody who can hear loves music, and it is beneficial for children to learn the fundamentals of music at an early age. This provides a valuable head start for those who want to learn how to sing or play an instrument. Singing and playing music together is also a good group activity that fosters improved social skills and greater cooperation. Depriving students of that early advantage makes it that much harder to get caught up late in life.
Who Benefits From Music Education?
Everyone benefits from the availability of music education. Students benefit because they learn how music works. It also provides the perfect opportunity to practice, something all musicians need to do to get better. Even for younger students, it has a positive effect on their critical thinking skills and overall academic performance. There are other, real benefits of teaching music for teachers; you can use music to teach almost any subject. The music industry benefits because music education helps students build the fundamental skills necessary to become a working musician in adulthood.
Why Does It Matter?
Schools have limited funds with which to teach children, making it all the more important to prioritize which subjects get the most attention. As important as it is to have those skills, a complete education constitutes more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. Extracurricular activities help children stay enthusiastic about going to school, which has an overall positive effect on their learning and study habits.
Where Does The Money Come From?
Public school funding comes from a variety of local, state, and federal sources, including but not limited taxes and grants. Some schools receive private funding and donations, but not every school is that fortunate. Many schools supplement their income with funding drives, door-to-door magazine or candy sales, or on-site bake sales. Ticket sales from band and orchestra concerts can help narrow the gap a little bit.
How Can We Fight Back
Write to your congressional representative and ask him or her to make sure that funding for music education is not threatened by budget cuts. Also, speak out at school board meetings to speak up in defense of music classes and the value they bring to schools. Write to the local newspaper and post on social media about the cuts and their detrimental effect on public education. If all else fails, then try civil disobedience as a last resort.
It is essential to be vigilant about the future of American music education. Underfunded classes cannot teach students adequately, making it important that music education get a fair shake. The creative class contributes to the economy in multiple ways, but it is hard to nurture musical talent without a solid foundation in music education starting at an early age. By fighting to keep music classes funded, you can keep the music from dying out in public schools.