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 Post subject: Pride Goes Before the Fall -- of Music Education
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2001 11:03 am 
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Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 498
Location: neworleans, louisiana
In an effort to foster a meaningful discussion -- and not just opinions based on emotion or nationalistic thinking, I would propose that we all try to become aware of what is going on -- in terms of actual facts and statistics -- with arts education in the United States today. As many, many people have voiced in this site, music is central to dance, and therefore, I maintain, this topic is germane to this site, and constitutes what I believe belongs under ISSUES.<P>I have opined in another thread that the U.S. is behind in music education. Oh no -- I hear, it's only different. And what, oh what, does that have to do with math? And can't we still be considered intelligent if we hate a subject or don't find it interesting or do well in it???? Again -- emotional -- and, I argue -- irrelevant responses to a topic that merits research and well-based opinions formulated on at least a bit of study.<P>In Japan, the history of public school music is short, compared to in the U.S., in that it was established through the School Education Act of 1947, and actually modeled after what was in effect in the U.S. at that time. Today in Japan it is mandated by the Ministry of Education that every child in grades 1 through 9 receive two hours per week of sequential music instruction from a music specialist. Moreover, all of the instructional materials to facilitate this education are supplied, including a desk top keyboard for each student; each school building has a room used solely for music instruction.<P>In Germany, each student, from kindergarten through 12th grade, receives a minimum of 2 45-minute class periods per week in music instruction.<P>As example of the lapse in the U.S., I note one study showing that in the early 90s, in San Diego, a district with 65,000 elementary school students in 107 schools, there was one music specialist for every 21 schools. <P>If we did not have these kinds of gaps in our music education system in the public schools, why then have there been movements such as "Save the Music" undertaken by pop and rock musicians and promoted by the media? Bravo to such efforts. We need more of them.<P>Now -- when I brought up the correlation between musical and mathematical prowess, I was met with defensiveness. But, put your emotions on ice for a moment and hear me out. This isn't just me talking out of my ear here. Many studies are showing the way music enhances other learning abilities. It was noted, for example, in one study that pre-schoolers who had piano lessons for six months performed better on puzzle-solving tests. Another study revealed that 2nd graders who took piano lessons and played computer math games scored higher on math tests than children who played math games but had English language instruction instead of piano lessons. <P>The late physician/biologist Lewis Thomas <BR>conducted a study in which he found that 66 percent of music majors who applied to medical school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group of undergraduates, and more than the biochemistry majors. He theorized that medical schools wanted students who were capable of relieving stress through music, acting, dance and sculpting. <P>It was found in 1999 that college-bound high school students with course work or experience in music scored higher on their SATs, both in math and verbal, than students with no arts participation.<P>According to the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, students who participated in music received more academic honors than non-music students.<P>A 1992 study conducted at the University of Montreal found that sight reading of musical scores and playing music both activated regions in all four of the brain cortex's lobes and that parts of the cerebellum are also activated during those tasks. <P>Another study at McGill University in 1998 found that pattern recognition and mental representation scores improved significantly for students who received piano lessons over a three-year period.<P>It has been recognized that this education is best started very early in a youngster's life. According to a study conducted at Temple University in Philadelphia (Professors Gordon and Seashore), by age 9, a child's overall music aptitude has become stabilized. It is not to say that after this age a child cannot be successfully taught music, but it does mean, the researchers stated, that a child of five benefits far more from music instruction than does a six year old, more at six than seven, etc.<P>This doesn't even begin to address the effects music has on otherwise disruptive behavior of students.<P>Here is an excerpt from an inspiring quote from General Schwarzkopf: "During the Gulf War, the few opportunities I had for relaxation I always listened tomusic, and it brought to me great peace of mind ... and all of this started with the music appreciation course that I was taught in a third-grade elemental class in Princeton, New Jersey. What a tragedy it would if we lived in world where music was not taught to children."<P>Yes -- this is a topic I feel extremely impassioned about. But I think it is important to back your responses with some meat and potatoes. There is, I believe, a gap in this country, in this regard. It won't be solved by stating that we're not behind, just "different," or what does it matter about math anyway, I'm still intelligent in my own mind. No one is calling anyone stupid. But we need to recognize a problem in order to take concrete steps towards improvement. <P><p>[This message has been edited by Christina (edited April 27, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Pride Goes Before the Fall -- of Music Education
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2001 12:17 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 16, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 242
Location: Washington St.
Christina, I enjoyed this post very much. I think it brings up some relevant points. I know for a fact that the students who had music lessons did much better in their dancing lessons, at least as far as listening to the music and dancing with it.<P>I could only wish that our country would have such consistent music education! <P>I once did a research paper for a psychology class examining the correlation between time spent in music lessons and gpa of the senior class at a large high school. There was a highly significant correlation: the more time students spent in musical activities, the higher the gpa. Because this was a correlational study, I couldn't draw any conclusions. My thesis was that music training helps intelligence, but I also wondered if music helps to teach discipline. It is obvious to (almost) any beginning instrumentalist that you have to practice to get better, and that it requires lots of work over many years. I bet this discipline is extended to other school subjects as well. <P>About the medical school statistics.... As one who applied and went to medical school (for two months, before I decided to leave for another career), I will say that medical schools do want to see how a student will relax and relieve stress from the difficult load. They also want to see well-rounded candidates. They see a million biology majors, but a French major or a music major is somewhat rare. I think it likely that those who major in other subjects but still decide to go to med school realize keenly that that is what they want and will work hard to get in. Therefore, on average, they would be more qualified and dedicated, and more likely to be accepted. Many biochemists get to their senior year of college and wonder what to do with themselves. They don't know, so they say, hey, I'll apply to med school. But they haven't dedicated themselves, so they won't get in. I am sure that music helps these students, but it's possible that the statistics in regards to med school entrance might be a little misleading. <P>Young children learn foreign languages much quicker than the older folks. Even high school is too late for this window of opportunity. I wonder if music is processed in our brains in a somewhat similar way to foreign languages?


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 Post subject: Re: Pride Goes Before the Fall -- of Music Education
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2001 1:37 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 498
Location: neworleans, louisiana
Thank you for your keen response. I find it exciting to read more and more about the myriad of ways in which music training boosts brain power. <P>There is research evidencing that certain brain structures are larger in musicians, suggesting that music training can influence brain organization and ability. For example, the primary motor cortex and the cerebellum, both of which are involved in movement and coordination, are bigger in adult musicians than in people who don't play musical instruments. And, the area that connects the two sides of the brain, the corpus callosum, is also larger in adult musicians. <P>Also, while a few studies suggest that listening to music in itself has a modest brain effect -- e.g., listening to Mozart temporarily raised college students' spatial skills and rats exposed to Mozart completed a maze more rapidly and with fewer errors than other rats -- it appears that listening doesn't have nearly the same benefit that actually learning to play an instrument does. <P>Scientists are excited that recent studies suggest that music training may not only assist brain function in normally functioning individuals, but also with malfunctioning patients, such as those with Alzheimer's disease.<P>And we haven't even begun to address the effect on behavior. In my own little world of teaching, however, I have seen time and again how singing throughout much of my class with little ones encourages a sense of growth and love and self-confidence. This has occurred everywhere from classes in "the projects" to at the most elite of private schools. <P>How I wish this was truly a democratic world with this incredibly powerful tool available to all children. I do think we wouldn't be hearing so much lamenting about all the subjects we hated or didn't fare so well at because our learning would have been so enhanced. <P>If you asked me to recite the Greek alphabet, I would probably stumble a bit, but sing it? No problem at all. <BR>


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