Monday, April 16, 2012

Music Education

I cannot let the events of this past week go without remarking on them.  The Shamokin School Board has had to make some very difficult decisions in order to deal with a budget that is woefully short of being balanced.  

Shamokin Area is not the only school district in the area, or the state for that matter, that finds itself in this predicament.  I do not wish to turn this post into a political diatribe, so instead I will encourage you to investigate the decisions governor Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania Department of Education are making regarding funding, high stakes testing and curriculum. Then you can form your own opinions - EDUCATED opinions.

Most people in public service know that you can make some of the people happy all of the time, and all of the people happy some of the time, but you cannot make all of the people happy all of the time (please forgive me, Abraham Lincoln for amending your quote).  I think we can all agree that the Board was faced with a decision with many possible outcomes each of which would have been contentious.  There is no easy answer to the shortfall they face, but that which is valued should be preserved and I wish to speak directly to the value of music in the development of the whole child.

In the Seven Habit of Highly Effective People author Dr. Stephen Covey counts among the habits, "Sharpen the Saw."  This is the effort taken to create a positive effect on the task at hand by doing something that may not be directly related to the processes of the task.  For instance, if the task is to cut down a gargantuan tree; instead of going straight at the trunk wielding your saw, take a second and sharpen the saw.  You have thereby made the actual task of attacking the tree easier.  Music works much the same in children.  You learn music not only for it's sake, but for the sake of all that it enables: the emotional regulation; the priming of the math centers; the effect on long and short term episodic and emotional memory, and so much more.  Music is vital to neurodevelopment, it forges pathways in young brains and primes them for the kind of learning that can be quantified through those tests that are becoming the mainstay of education.  Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect explains:
The more participation there is with music early on — through singing and movement — the more it simultaneously activates multiple levels of the brain. If you look at the corpus callosum [of someone who plays music] there are more connections made between right and left sides. A child who is moving, dancing and singing learns coordination between their eye, ear and sound early on. And [the experience of participating in music education] helps integrate the social, the emotional and the real context of what we’re learning. There are studies that show children who play music have higher SAT scores, that learning to control rhythm and tempo not only help them get along with others but plants seeds for similar advantages when we get much older.
Not only does music impact our early development, but it essential to development and renewal throughout the lifespan.  I really hope that you will watch the video below and see how a life encompassed by music can unlock the spirit of an octogenarian mired in the haze of dementia.
If your child has been impacted by the decision made by the school board, please make a conscious effort to include music in your family's activities.  It is too important to your child's development to omit.