Tuesday, January 8

Music critic: Schools aren't really teaching the arts, even when they try

Here's something new to worry about. Allan Kozinn, a music critic for the New York Times, recently argued in the Times that arts funds are too often going to arts organizations that provide "flyby" arts experiences, instead of building coherent and cumulative arts programs within schools. He writes:

If you look at how music was taught in public schools 40 years ago — and for decades before that — you’ll see exactly what’s needed now. Back then it was simple: Music was part of the curriculum, like math, science and social studies. ... Even more crucial, if you wanted to play an instrument, lessons were free, and the school would lend you an instrument until you felt sufficiently committed to buy your own.
My mother graduated from MS 158 and Bayside High School. Her music training at those schools was strong enough that she was first bass in the Queens College orchestra. Certainly going to see the orchestra perform would not give the same results. But if the many arts organizations offering "flyby" experiences didn't exist, I wonder whether most schools would spend money on the arts at all, especially since there are no longer any special funds earmarked for arts education. A couple of lessons by a "teaching artist" isn't ideal by far, but at least they replace test prep with something that might intrigue kids to learn more.

How does your school teach the arts? Do your kids learn real skills and techniques? Or is Kozinn right that kids are spending too much of their arts time with visiting artists and on field trips?

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