BY SHARON MARTIN
In the last week of my mother’s life, Dad was trying to make dinner. As usual, Mom was wherever he needed to be in the kitchen, but my brother knew what to do. He called her into the living room, sat at the piano, and played a song Mom had never heard before. She picked up her guitar and played the song back to him.
My mother was a musician who spent her last 16 years with vascular dementia. Each little stroke would take more of her memory. At the end, love and music was what she had left. Imagine if she hadn’t learned to play and sing.
For this reason and more, music should be part of the core curriculum in every school. There is a body of research that justifies music training; it isn’t just personal experience and gut feelings. Music education makes children better thinkers. Musicians recognize patterns; many of them excel in math. And researchers have found that “kids who play an instrument or sing have greater verbal skills.”
Brain scans show that musicians have bigger connectors between the two sides of their brains and more gray matter. And if that weren’t enough, music can calm or energize. It can affect mood. It can heal. So can art.
You can’t measure creativity with a machine-scored test, but teachers can tell you the value of art in the classroom, from the dirty-hands art of clay and painting to the meditative art of basket weaving. Not only does art teach problem solving, but drawing from life hones observational skills. There’s a reason so many scientists are also artists.
If a subject invites a child to see, to listen, or to love to come to school, it belongs in the curriculum.
A whopping majority of Americans, when polled, love the schools their children attend but think schools in general are failing. American schools aren’t failing. They reach children of every ability level. They offer services they weren’t designed to offer, and they do so with a dedicated and highly educated staff. But years of testing mania and legislative shenanigans have taken a toll.
It’s time to get back to what school is about. It’s time to pony up the funds, not just for salaries but also for programs.
Education should provide students everything they need to choose their futures, as scientists, artists, engineers, construction workers, mechanics, all the jobs that are needed to make civilization work.
School should never be something to dread.
Education isn’t just word problems and nonfiction. If it doesn’t make students’ lives better even into old age, it’s time to rethink the core curriculum.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer