Why Teach Music and the Arts?
Music and the Fine Arts have been a significant portion of every culture's educational system for more than 3,000 years. The Arts are the only way humans learn and judge other cultures or ages. The human brain has been shown to be "hard-wired" for music; there is a biological basis for music being an important part of human experience. Music and the Arts surround daily life in our present day culture. Most present day artists, architects, and musicians acquired their interests during public school Fine Arts classes. Only by continuing to allow students to explore these ways of learning will this portion of the economy continue to grow. Education without the Fine Arts is fundamentally impoverished and subsequently leads to an impoverished society.
What about the claimed benefits of music education on other portions of the academic curriculum?
The most rigorous review of all studies (Reviewing Education and the Arts Project Report (REAP)) shows there are significant, reliable causal relationships between the systematic, formal study of music and gains in mathematics and in spatial-temporal relationships. Brain studies show the development of more extensive neural connections in musicians.
Should Music and the Arts be used to teach other academic subjects?
While studies show positive influences in other academic areas, music and the Fine Arts are an academic discipline that are, as the other academics, an independent way of learning and knowing. Reading, writing, and mathematics are important and all students should be successful in those areas, however none of those academic areas justify their existence on the basis of what is accomplished for another area. Each academic discipline is important for a well-rounded curriculum. Music and Fine Arts are an academic area of study equal to reading, writing, mathematics and science.
Should the study of Music and the Fine Arts be available to all students?
Where music and Fine Arts programs have been eliminated because of funding difficulties, students have been deprived of a significant opportunity of learning and knowing about the world around them. All students should be able to "elect" to study music and the Fine Arts in depth at the secondary level. All students should have the opportunity to study music at the elementary level in a systematic, meaningful way. If music and the Fine Arts are reserved for only wealthy schools or communities, a cultural "elite" will be created, which also creates a significant distinction of social class. Music and the Fine Arts should not only be available to those children of wealthy parents who can purchase private tutors or subsidize public schools with donations to sustain public school programs, but also to students of average or low socio-economic areas.
Should Music and the Fine Arts should be reserved only for those students who have demonstrated their "talent?"
Magnet schools and magnet programs are wonderful for students exhibiting their skill at an early age, but many students do not realize their talent at early ages. Without opportunities in elementary, middle or high schools many students will miss developing their creative and/or artistic abilities. Districts or communities relying on solely on magnet programs and exclude or reduce Fine Arts in other district schools deny many students the chance to develop this way of knowing and learning.
How should Music and the Fine Arts fit into the Florida educational curriculum?
Florida school curriculum should be designed to deliver more than a minimal education to Florida students. Music and Art should be taught at every elementary school in a regular and systematic way. Music and all Fine Arts should be considered "academic electives" in secondary schools and available to all students on a multi-year basis to allow adequate time for skills to develop sufficiently for informed decisions about college programs and career choices. All academic electives, including Music and Fine Arts, should count towards entrance requirements in Florida colleges and universities. All students graduating from Florida schools should have received at least one credit in Fine Arts. All Florida colleges and universities should require one Fine Arts credit for admission.
How should accountability be demanded so that Fine Arts courses meet rigorous requirements?
There are already in place Sunshine State Standards for the Arts, and schools should be required to demonstrate compliance with the benchmarks already defined. Rigorous music performance assessments are already in place and administered by the Florida School Music Association (see State Music Performance Assessment Report, 2001,). That association, which governs interscholastic music activities in Florida, will be developing assessments that are inclusive of all of the elements of the Sunshine State Standards. The other state Fine Arts associations are in the process of developing similar assessments.
Make certain your advocacy network in your county is strong and that communication systems are in place for rapid use. Network with all Fine Arts educators and advocates on your campus. Network with all levels of Fine Arts educators in your school system (elementary – middle – high school – college). Use these talking points to communicate with your state legislators and let them know how important Music and the Fine Arts are to you. Ask for their support for legislation that will ensure the Fine Arts' place in the K-12 curriculum, and the funds to support those programs.