Monday, June 04, 2012

What Music Educators Have Been Saying Forever

A reader drew my attention to this article from the other day. It's about how some teachers in San Francisco are having success using a curricula that employs music instruction to teach basic math skills.

Math teachers know that fractions can be hard for the average third-grader. Teachers at a public school in San Bruno, Calif., just south of San Francisco, are trying something new. They're teaching difficult math concepts through music, and they're getting remarkable results.

Something new? This is what music educators have been saying . . . forever, even as they're being shown the door. The only thing new about this program, frankly, is that instead of music being taught by experienced music teachers, it's being taught by math teachers.

I don't mean to be hard on the San Francisco State University researchers who developed this Academic Music curriculum, and in fact, I really ought to be praising them for shining a light on what music educators have always known: music education is an essential part of what it means to be an educated person. It shouldn't even bother me that the NPR writer chose the word "new" which isn't, I suppose, entirely inaccurate in the sense that these folks have developed a way to help children who are struggling with their fractions via the old fashioned methods by employing even older fashioned methods, making it new again.

Still, I can't help but be struck by the ridiculousness of it all. In the push to layoff teachers by the hundreds of thousands these past few years in the name of austerity and "reform," a disproportionate number of whom teach such "extras" as music, art, drama, and physical education, we are impoverishing education right across the board. Music has always helped children better grasp mathematical concepts, so has science, so has history, and likewise sports, just as math education has helped children to read, paint, or compose music. It's all interrelated. You can't remove one piece without impoverishing the rest, yet that's what corporate education reformers in their narrow focus on math and literacy are doing.

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mamabook said...

I totally agree and what I am seeing is that kids in "good" school districts like ours are still provided with all this "extra" enrichment stuff ... and kids in struggling districts are left with a bare bones curriculum which is all about testing. And they need it more than anyone. At least in our district, if they pulled music and art from the curriculum parents can afford to pay for it privately.

Becky said...

When I was in third grade, almost everything went over my head. My teacher even had a lady come in to "teach" us how to read music notes for an hour, and that too went over my head. That summer my mom put my brother and I in piano lessons. The following fall in 4th grade, I started to *get* things. I started to think in ways that I hadn't before. I also played the violin from 7th through 12th grade. I'm determined to have music be part of my children's lives, too.

JoAnn Jordan said...

Thank you for sharing the power of music education, Tom. Most of us learn our alphabet by singing. There are songs to teach lots of school concepts.

Music and math do have a lot in common. Music can involve so many senses, so many inputs to the brain.