3 years ago, I ventured my toe back into the realm of classroom music education. My degree is in vocal music education and from 2001-2002, that was what I did. And I struggled, and in that, God showed me that I was supposed to be serving in the church. I had opportunities to go back into the classroom, but the timing wasn’t right, and ultimately, because of my previous bad experience, I was scared. Three years ago, an opportunity came to direct a private Christian high school choir. We needed the money and it was a fun experience. It helped me regain my confidence. But it also pushed me to go to the Texas Music Educators conference. It was there that I was introduced to Sir Ken Robinson, as he was one of the keynote speakers. Here’s a clip:
There has been much argument and discussion over standardized testing. In my state of Texas, standardized testing is highly regarded and a huge weight is placed on teachers, administrators and students.
Recently, I came across this article. The article is about how art teachers in New York are evaluated on the math scores of students in their school. Yes, you read that right. And if you don’t believe it, read the article. How preposterous is that? The headline of the article asks is it fair. I’d say it’s more than that. It is absolutely illogical to base the value of a teacher who teaches a subject that is founded on creativity, uniqueness, and is difficult to be standardized on subjects like math, reading, and others that can be standardized in measuring.
In fact, as Sir Ken Robinson notes in the video shared, we have lost the creativity in our schools. Remember when children would use their imagination and come up with amazing stories? I was one of those children. Now, the focus isn’t really on imagining, but preparing for the testing. Making sure that students know what they are supposed to know when they are supposed to know it. Not individualized education, but corporate education. I’ve seen it in my daughter who is in public school kindergarten. Yes, she’s in a great school in a fantastic school district, but I see weekly a heavy emphasis on numbers, math and knowledge of adding simple numbers. Already in kindergarten!
Music and the arts help to instill and build creativity in students. When the focus shifts to teaching to the test, things that conflict with that goal get cut back or cut out completely. That is why when you look at music and the arts in public schools, the opportunities are quite limited.
So what leads to the change? I think it is about advocacy and parents speaking up for what they want to see. More than that, even if you do not have a child or your children are grown up and you want children today to have a quality education, music or otherwise, pay attention to the elections for school board and how the schools get funded. Really, that’s the best hope for change when it comes to education.