Opinion: Music Programs Are Instrumental to Education, So Stop Cutting Them

Filed under: Opinions

Please don't stop the music! Credit: Corbis

School districts all over the nation are being forced to make hard decisions about programs as they face an increasing fiscal crisis. As just one example, a proposal recently adopted by the Taft City School District in Taft, Calif., could eliminate the entire junior high music program.

Making music used to be an integral part of our family lives at home, but the advent of the radio and television slowly eroded that tradition. Today, most kids only get the chance to make music at school. Music is part of what makes us human -- just try to imagine a world without Mozart, Louis Armstrong, Yo-Yo Ma, or even Kanye West. That's what we could be facing if we continue to put music at the bottom of our educational priority list.

Music education is, unfortunately, considered "extra" in the American public school system, and, when the ax falls, it is among the first programs to be cut -- or, in the case of Taft City, possibly eviscerated. Athletics, on the other hand, more often than not remain intact, thanks to a culture that places a high value on sports. While athletic programs are no doubt an important part of a child's education, music is no less critical.

Taft City isn't making the cut lightly, and at least one trustee there says eliminating the junior high program means the death of the high school program, as well.

"The junior high program is the only feeder system for the high school," Mike McCormick tells the Taft Midway Driller newspaper. "If the program is dropped here, within two years the program will be dropped at Taft High School."

Alternatives are out there, like the step taken by Carrollton School District in Carrollton, Ill., which decided to eliminate transportation to all extracurricular activities, including sports. Instead, coaches and parents will help get kids to and from their games. The step will save the district as much as $28,000 a year, or roughly the equivalent of one teacher's annual salary. For some districts, that extra $28,000 could mean the difference between one music teacher or no music teacher.

According to the Save the Music Foundation, children who study a musical instrument develop discipline and teamwork by doing so, and also learn to think creatively and critically. They also show improved performance in other academic subjects. It's time to stop looking at music education as a quick fix to a budget crisis and start treating it for what it really is -- an integral of part of every child's academic success.

Related: School Sports on Chopping Block as Budgets Shrink

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