What was that about cutting music?

Every year it's the same story for too many districts. Do we cut music, art, technology, physical education, or some unsavory combination thereof?
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

Every year it's the same story for too many districts. Do we cut music, art, technology, physical education, or some unsavory combination thereof? Obviously we have to teach the core subjects; we don't get dinged on our standardized music test scores and nobody cares if we have students passing the Advanced Placement Art test. The technology we have is good enough for another year, right?

All of these decisions stink and nobody would disagree that all children benefit from music, art, PE, and computer technology. Well, except maybe my dad. He didn't let me take up the violin in the 5th grade because he thought it might interfere with my studies. "Well rounded" was not in his vocabulary.

Since I'm still bitter about that (just kidding, Dad...I might not have won the Spelling Bee if I'd wasted time on the violin), I've started taking guitar lessons. All of the kids have taken piano lessons at some point and, while none will be maestros anytime soon, my youngest looks forward to his lesson every week and practices on his own (although he gets his older brothers to help him draw the quarter notes and half notes his teacher has him write out on staff paper; the shaded and unshaded, tail up or tail down still gets the little 6 year old). My oldest stopped piano lessons, but asked to start saxophone lessons. One of the middle guys is trying to decide if he'll set aside the trombone in favor of the trumpet in band next year. And I actually managed to eek out "Ode to Joy" today (fortunately, our music teacher not only comes to our house but is an outstanding woodwind, piano, and guitar teacher, so it's one-stop shopping).

So what's my point in an educational technology column? My point is this: my 6 year old came up to me today as I was struggling to read music and actually find the correct notes on my guitar and corrected me on the notes I read out loud. A closer look revealed that he was right. Music is a language, just like Japanese or C++. Just as foreign languages help us speak our native tongues better, music and programming reinforce math and critical thinking.

As much as we cut back to ensure that our core subjects don't suffer on standardized tests, children derive innumerable benefits from the arts and technology. Just as many of our kids are "digital natives", having grown up immersed in technology, early exposure to music can make them "artistic natives", making for kids who can ultimately balance the call of YouTube with the finer things in life. Trust me, my little guy is having a much easier time learning piano now than I am learning guitar at my age.

Hey Barack (or McCain, I guess)...Care to fund elementary art/music education at the same time you transform No Child Left Behind? My aching fingers would appreciate it. While you're at it, keep in mind two words: "Lifecycle funding." This is an Ed Tech blog after all.

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