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The Decline of Music Education in America’s Public Schools

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Gwendolyn B.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Arguments against music programs in schools
  3. The Financial aspect
  4. Arguments in favor of music
  5. Conclusion

In most cultures, music making has typically been regarded as nothing more than an enjoyable pastime and has even been looked down upon as a sign of laziness. In a well-known fable by Aesop, a grasshopper spends the summer months doing nothing but playing and making music while the ants are all hard at work gathering winter provisions. Consequently, when winter comes, the grasshopper finds himself with no resources and turns to the ants for help, receiving only scorn and rebuke for his laziness. This idea has lead to the belief that teaching music to our children is not important and won't have much effect on them unless they go so far as to become concert musicians. Most people fail to realize the immense impact that even a little exposure to the right kind of music has on young minds. Music has many long-lasting benefits and has potential to improve cognitive functioning, build confidence, teach responsibility and discipline, and unite culture. The ancient Greeks understood this and integrated music into their lives as an important form of expression. In fact, nearly all societies that excel intellectually?the leading nations in science and mathematics included?have music as one of the most important subjects in their elementary and secondary schools. America, on the other hand, fails to realize why it is falling further behind in the race for technology and the competition to produce more brilliant scientific minds.

There are many seemingly valid arguments that fight music programs in schools nationwide, considering it a ?frivolous commodity' that serves only to detract from learning time, drain school funds, and teach children (like the grasshopper in the fable) to be lazy and careless. The common idea is that it simply isn't worth the trouble and music programs are being cut from regular curriculum. ?At elementary school level, more than one half of all school districts in the United States have no full time music teacher? (Ballam).

[...] It is the right brain?the creativity and human sensitivity?that good music has the power to nurture. We are so concerned about spending extra money on the arts in our schools, but every year, sue to the absence of emotional discipline, we graduate illiterates and criminals who only force more money out of us to spend on welfare and prisons?something that could very well be avoided if we only realized the importance of the arts. Note that the phrase ?good music' is repeated again and again. [...]


[...] On the other hand, many forms of popular music lack this order but instead generate the exact opposite results. predict that music lacking complexity or which is repetitive may interfere with rather than enhance abstract reasoning? (Ballam). Rap, in particular, which emphasizes a heavy, repeating beat, literally interferes with the way the brain works. There are many instances where people have done things they normally wouldn't as a result of this kind of ?brain damaging' music, including suicide, illicit sex, rowdiness, racism, and even murder. [...]


[...] The right side is used primarily for creativity while the left is used for logic and reasoning. In a normal day, there are very few instances where the right and left sides have to work together; most people only use one side at a time. Playing a musical instrument forces both sides to work together?the left reading the music and the right performing the correct motor skills to move the fingers and provide musical expression. A violinist has to think about several things at once: bow arm, left hand fingers, and reading the notes. [...]


[...] Some companies offer discount rates for student instruments as well. Some argue that not all kids are good at music and may feel left behind. On the contrary, ?Music is inherent to human beings and the first intelligence that human beings develop? (Pane). If one considers it, not all kids are good at math or physical education but schools still require it. ?Children's brains are hard-wired for music?even babies can produce rhythm? (Central). It doesn't matter, really if a child excels in music or not?it's the exposure to good forms of music that will benefit him the most. [...]

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