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Paul Harvey On Music Education In Our Public Schools

Music is everywhere in bird song and in bubbling brooks and in laughter, even in the stars. Music is the universal language that transcends time and space. Music is one of the seven forms of human intelligence, all equal in stature and in potential. And yet education, as is, is almost totally geared to nurturing linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities along, leaving the other five forms, including music, neglected.

At elementary-school level more than half of all school districts in the United States have no full-time music teacher. And thus our schools tend to refine intellects but neglect to discipline emotions, and undisciplined emotions keep getting us into trouble. The ugliest headlines are about somebody who may have been "smart as all get-out"; smart enough to be a bank executive or a politician or a scientist. But if emotionally color blind, he's an unguided missile inevitably destined to self-destruct. Without the arts, including music, we risk graduating young people who are "right-brain" damaged. For anyone to grow up complete, music education is imperative.

Case histories on file with the National Commission on Music Education uncover an exciting correlation between the study of music and such critical work-place performance factors as self-esteem, self-discipline, the ability to work in groups and higher cognitive and analytical skills. Music in schools, what little there is, is considered ancillary to "real education", as something of a "curricular icing". If it is to be re-established as basic to education, as fundamental to being "an educated person", then educators and performers, composers and publishers, and those in music-related industries, must close ranks to restore educational balance in schools. The National Commission on Music Education is such a coalition. Already, in its first year, it has won the support of 75 national organizations, willing, under a slogan of "Let's Make Music", to work together toward the music enrichment of public schools' curricula.

How does one plausibly argue for spending school money on music when we are graduating illiterates? Should we not be putting all our emphasis on reading, writing and math? The "back-to-basics curricula", while it has merit, ignores the most urgent void in our present system— absence of self-discipline.  The arts, inspiring— indeed requiring self-discipline— may be more "basic" to our nation's survival than traditional credit courses. Presently, we are spending 29 times more on science than on the arts, and the result so far is worldwide intellectual embarrassment.


Paul Harvey
Foundation For Universal Music Literacy
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