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- Excerpts from an article by James R. Ponter, appearing
- in the February, 1999 issue of the NASSP (National
- Secondary School Principals) Bulletin.
- Comparing School Music Programs and
Science Test Scores of Countries Worldwide
- Nations whose students consistently outperform the United
- in tests assessing science achievement are the countries
- music is a primary focus of the curriculum. Test results cited
- the 1983 report A Nation at Risk showed the United States
- badly behind other countries in mathematics and science. A
- test of the International Association for the Evaluation
- Educational Achievement (IAEEA) ranked the United States
- fourteenth among 17 countries on an instrument testing
- achievement of eighth and ninth graders (AAAS, 1989). Our
- students' scores compared favorably with those of Thailand
- Singapore, while trailing far behind Poland, Italy, Korea,
- speaking Canada, and every other participating country, with
- exception of the Philippines and Hong Kong.
- This report was among the catalysts for the many reform
- the '80s and '90s. In New Jersey, these reforms included
- Governor's Statewide Systemic Initiative, Core Course
- Proficiencies, the Core Curriculum Content Standards, and
- Academy for the Improvement of Teaching. These actions
- accompanied by a flurry of legislative initiatives aimed
- tightening the requirements for obtaining and retaining
- and administrative certification.
- Trampled in the stampede toward technology in the classroom,
- of the most neglected reforms has been a serious examination
- the influence of the arts on academic achievement,
- upon achievement in mathematics and science. In
- with recent work in cognitive psychology regarding the
- relationship between music and academic achievement, it
- enlightening to examine the status of music in the curricula
- those countries whose students consistently outpace our
- mathematics and science. The top-performing students on
- 1988 IAEEA Test in science were the eighth and ninth
- from Hungary, followed by those from the Netherlands and
- WHAT ARE OTHER COUNTRIES DOING?
- If we examine the top three ranked countries on the 1988 test,
- see some fascinating parallels between academic achievement
- music education. In a 1988 study cited by Frank Hodsoll,
- Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, he noted that
- grades 1-6, the Japanese require two class periods per week
- music]. Music includes singing, instrumental performance,
- appreciation of both western and Japanese music. At middle
- students learn to sing in choruses and play instruments
- ensembles (DOE 1987).
- In Dutch secondary schools, music and art became
- subjects in 1968, and compulsory examinations in these
- were implemented in 1976 (Netherlands National Institute
- Educational Measurement).
- In Hungary, the land of Bela Bartok and Franz List, with
- number one ranking in science achievement for eighth and
- graders, music education has long been an essential and
- developmental program implemented nationally by the
- Zoltan Kodaly. Both voice and instrumental training twice a
- are compulsory throughout the first eight years of
- The centrality of music education to learning in the
- countries seems to contradict the United States' focus on
- science, vocabulary, and technology. Yet, we continue to
- emphasize the need for computers in every classroom, and more
- the same academic emphasis.
- MUSIC AND THE BRAIN
- According to Howard Gardner, musicians follow a progression
- notes, a very sequential left brain process; seeing patterns
- construction of phrases, seeing the whole for expressive
- and interpretations, and dealing with rhythmic patterns, on
- other hand, are very right-brain skills. Additionally,
- abilities involved in timing, counting, and the symbolic
- of time and sound involve abstract and spatial reasoning.
- All this brain activity must be consummated in the form of
- fine motor skills. Beyond all other musical activities, the
- of stringed instruments without keys or frets involves
- estimation of decreasing distances down the finger board
- accurate intonation.
- Bowing technique requires the cultivation of an intuitive
- velocity and acceleration that may later become codified in
- symbolic language of calculus.
- Because it draws on so many different attributes, music
- flexibility in thinking. Musical training is an effective way,
- only to enhance the conceptual-holistic-creative thinking
- also to assist in the melding and merging of the mind's
- Although most musical capabilities seem to be represented
- the right hemisphere, as an individual becomes more
- capabilities that were housed in the right hemisphere are
- increasingly in the left. It appears that, with musical
- significant proportion of skills migrate across the corups
- into the linguistically dominant left hemisphere (Gardner,
- DOES MUSIC MAKE YOU SMARTER?
- The mental flexibility that is developed by the study of music
- reflected in industrial applications. One of the most
- and entrepreneurial centers of U.S. commerce is the
- Valley of California. Grant Venerable, in "The Paradox of
- Silicon Savior," says: "One of the most striking facts in
- Valley industry is that the very best engineers and
- designers are, nearly without exception, practicing
- Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas studied the
- majors of medical school applicants. He found that 66 percent
- music majors who applied to medical school were admitted.
- was the highest of any group, while only 44 percent of
- biochemistry majors were admitted (1994).
- The research emerging from the cognitive sciences gives us
- information to explain the connections between music and
- learning. Technology allowing us to see the human brain in
- process of thinking shows us that when people listen to
- with a variety of pitch and timbre, the right hemisphere
- activated, as it is when one plays by ear or improvises.
- music is read, the player must understand key signatures,
- and other details of scores and follow the linear sequence of
- activating the left hemisphere in the same area that is
- analytical and mathematical thinking (Dickinson, 1993).
- mental multi-tasking seems to enhance cognitive ability
- powerful ways that we must not ignore.
- RE-THINKING AND ACTING
- The studies cited here seem to present a compelling argument
- favor of the implementation of long-term developmental
- instrumental music programs for all students, not just
- students with an obvious aptitude and interest. Music
- should go beyond the scope of our present treatment of
- classroom music and should be centered on the mastery of
- instruments including the voice and be aimed at solo and
- performance. These programs should also include
- and theoretical components for all students.
- Source: James R. Ponter. "Academic Achievement and the
- for a Comprehensive, Developmental Music Curriculum."
- Bulletin. Vol. 83 No. 604, February 1999.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- for All Americans: A Project 2061 Report on Literacy Goals
- Science, Mathematics and Technology. Washington, D.C.:
- American Association for the Advancement of Science,
- Dickinson, Dee. Music and the Mind. Seattle, Wash.: New
- Horizons for Learning, 1993.
- Gardner, Howard. Art, Mind and Brain - A Cognitive Approach
- Creativity. New York: Basic Books, 1984.
- National Commission on Excellence in Education. A Nation
- Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. Washington,
- U.S. Government Printing Office, 1983.
- Thomas, Lewis. "The Case for Music in Our Schools." Phi
- Kappan, February 1994.
- U.S. Department of education. U.S. Study of Education in
- Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office,
- Venerable, Grant. "The Paradox of the Silicon Savior." In
- Case for Sequential Music Education in the Core Curriculum
- the Public Schools. New York: The Center for the Arts in
- Basic Curriculum, 1989.
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