The Importance of Music Education in Public Schools

Today’s state budget deficits seem to be more the rule rather than the exception.  Illinois governor Pat Quinn signed the state’s $33.7 billion budget for FY2013 into law on June 30, 2012. The budget included an $8.3 billion deficit. School districts in Illinois were owed $981 billion at the end of the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

This sounds like great news, doesn’t it? Of course I’m being sarcastic. With all of this money being spent that we don’t have, why would anyone want to retain school programs that were not in the best interest of the majority? Or, does it really matter what is in the best interest of the majority?

Getting into how our state appropriates funds for public education is almost irrelevant when it comes to where the funds actually go in the individual school districts. In other words, the state and federal government allocate funds for public education and the individual school districts. What the districts do with the money is up to them. Let’s face it-no matter how much money the districts get, it is never, nor has it ever been, enough. Why is that? We are certainly paying enough in property taxes.

So what about the school’s programs? Athletics, probably the most important and widely recognized programs, must exist, and they take precedence other programs. Programs such as art and music are the ones that get less money than anything else. In many cases they are cut entirely. But not every student is athletically inclined. And when it comes to lifelong commitments to pursuing one’s passion, athletic activity usually ceases or is drastically reduced by the time a person reaches 40 years of age. Music, on the other hand, is usually a lifelong activity.

I really can’t offer solutions to shrinking budgets. I am just frustrated that taxes are soaring, despite declining property values, and there still is never enough money. Education is an investment in our country’s future, and our young people are our most valuable resource.

Let me quote a statement that is taken from “Music Resource Manual for Curriculum Planning” by the Illinois State Board of Education:

“The value of musical experience rests upon its unique relationship to the inner life of feeling. Response to the images of human feeling embodied in music (works of art) humanizes us by providing insight into what it means to be human and alive in the world. Musical aesthetic experiences always carry with them a sense of significance, and thus increase our sense of meaning in life. These experiences improve and deepen the quality of personal life by broadening and refining the repertory of feeling. In our increasingly technological in impersonal society, these learnings make an important contribution to a quality of life that is humane, rich and satisfying. Students should not only learn how to earn a living, but learn how to lead lives worth living.”

Sounds like a rather profound statement, made by someone with true insight in the human spirit. Someone who knows that music education is far more valuable to a student than merely learning how to play an instrument.

I could go on about my personal beliefs of the benefits of music education in our schools. But the author of that statement did a pretty good job and that’s a tough act to follow.

I encourage all of you to be proactive in retaining music programs in your school district. Your child’s school experience lays the groundwork for their future endeavors, the way they think, the way they get along with other people, and their human compassion. Music education is good for both the objective and subjective areas of the brain. It has been proven numerous times that children who take piano or music lessons do better scholastically than those who don’t. Athletics will always take precedence over arts and music, that’s just the way things are. However you won’t find too many 40-year-olds who are still playing football. You’ll find a lot more of them playing the piano.

 

Kurt

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