Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Phil's manifesto

With all the scientific literature supporting the arts as part of
American education why do administrators continue to, or try to, cut
elementary music programs?

1. Short term gains and no oversight

Principal’s jobs are on the line. Though NCLB fully supports the
arts as part of a long term education, Principals are being held accountable for
test scores now. They are not held accountable for canceling music
programs. The easy choice is to “up” the academics and throw out the

2. The belief that the arts, or some of the arts, don’t require specialists. The arts
can be fully addressed by the classroom teachers with no reduction of

Though the State has Arts standards it does not specify who assesses
them. Nor is their any penalty if they are not meet.

This is wrong. We know better.

3. Space

Older dedicated music rooms can be large and flexible as well as sound
proof. This makes them extremely desirable teaching spaces and many
of these music spaces have been re assigned to other uses. This is
while instrumental music and some vocal programs with hundreds of
students are taught in hallways, closets, cafeterias, and small
offices The lack of acceptable music teaching space leads to several
other problems including; conflicts with classroom teachers as we
create too much sound for them to teach. see below

4. Sound

Music is sound. Elementary music by its very nature is repetitive
and, well, elementary. Folks have strong opinions about their musical
likes and dislikes. Teaching the same math problems every year is
quiet work, no one complains yet teaching the same song every year
can be a problem --for the math teacher. Working on a single song to
perfection can have the same result. Some folks just can’t take it.


Even with the most organized and regimented music teacher there will
always be some disorder just as there is in all art. Especially true
as students work towards mastery.


A Strong instrumental/vocal program can create its own focus, and gain
attention for itself. It can also be independent of other school activities.

For example:

It would seem that a math teacher works "for" and supports the classroom teachers in their quest for higher test scores while classroom music requires the classroom teacher to give up some teaching time for performances. That is the classroom teachers must work with and support the music teachers.

Music resists micro managing from administration.

7. The Hard Facts:

Because No Child Left Behind has no penalties for schools that drop arts programs they have become expendable. On the other hand there are severe penalties for principals and school districts if they don't make their AYP now.

This means that arts teachers (Phi Ed too) can't directly help a principal keep their jobs no matter how good we are.


Put in place language in NCLB that says school districts must support the arts. This must be backed by either by funding, penalties, or both. Problem solved.

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