Music belongs in the 'core curriculum'

The recent suggestions in the Mail Tribune's letters to the editor section and the reporting of the recent Budget Committee meeting about removing music education in the Medford School District have compelled me to bring some facts to the discussion. The information I provide below is freely available on the Internet.

I have seen the argument that we need to stick to the "core curriculum" in our schools. According to Title IX, Part A, Sec. 9101(11) of the No Child Left Behind Act, "The term 'core academic subjects' means English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography" (emphasis mine). The College Board of New York identifies arts programs as one of the six basic academic subject areas to study in order to succeed in college. All arts programs, including music education, are considered part of the basic building blocks needed in a well-rounded education both by federal decree and by a majority of institutions of higher learning.

Studies show that music education improves test scores. For example, a 2001 study showed that students with coursework in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math on the SAT.

According to data from the 25,000-student National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, music participants received more academic honors and awards than non-music students. In that same study, researchers found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show "significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12."

In many countries that lead the world in math and science scores, such as Japan, music is a required, equal and major discipline in the curriculum. All students there get strong music training starting in the first grade.

Arts programs, including music education, are now a deciding factor in college admissions, because "Many colleges view participation in the arts and music as a valuable experience that broadens students' understanding and appreciation of the world around them. It is also well known and widely recognized that the arts contribute significantly to children's intellectual development," according to "Getting Ready for College Early: A Handbook for Parents of Students in the Middle and Junior High School Years," distributed by the United States Department of Education.

Children are sent to school not only to learn "the basics" but also to prepare for the future. We must strive to give our children every advantage to become successful adults. Taking away the creative outlet of music education will have a negative impact on students well beyond their time in our district.

I have two daughters in music programs at North Medford High School. Kathleen is a junior and a member of the NMHS Marching Band Color Guard. She is also a member of the Women's Choir. Marayna is a freshman, plays trumpet and is looking forward to proudly participating in the NMHS Jazz 1 Band, The Wind Ensemble, and the Black Tornado Marching Band next year. Music is the one force that drives them both to succeed. They are being molded into outstanding performers by dedicated educators Julie Weller and Steve Kessler.

I have two more children in elementary school in this district, and a fifth child who is a toddler. I plead the case to keep music education for them. I want them to have the same advantages I did through music. They want to follow in their siblings' footsteps and learn music. I will do what is needed to make sure they get the chance.

Music education should not be limited to those who can afford private lessons. There are too many benefits to limit this important tool to the affluent. Music education has opened doors for many students to further their education through scholarships they would otherwise not have received.

I ask every student that fondly remembers your band or choir as a positive part of your life to help me. I need you to stand with me to tell the school board that music is an essential part of education. Your kids need you to become part of the fight. Call or e-mail the entire school board. Show up on June 16 and tell them to "Let the Music Play!"

Sanders J. "Joey" Falgout III of Medford is chief engineer for Talk Radio Network in Central Point.

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