Survey Shows Parents And Teachers Value Music Education Over Gym And AP Classes
Over the past decade, many scientists and researchers have applied new brain imagining technology and other techniques to ascertain the possible link between music training and cognitive development, with definitive results. Through test after test and study after study, the benefits of music education—specifically, learning to play a musical instrument—have proven that there is a positive connection with music training and brain functions, as well as social and physical development.
And as these findings filter into public awareness, a new survey has discovered that both parents and teachers favor supporting music education curriculum over items such as sports and advanced placement classes. The study, entitled “Striking a Chord: The Public’s Hopes and Beliefs for K12 Music Education in the United States 2015,” was funded by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and conducted by an independent third party, Grunwald Associates, LLC, a leading authority on children, families, education and technology. It examined the responses of over 1000 teachers and 800 parents throughout the U.S. concerning the importance of music education.
Taking place during January and February, the results of the study were presented in May of this year, and it confirmed that despite constant pressure to cut funding for music education, both parents and teachers believe it to be “extremely important” to the “essential part of learning.”
Indeed, while many of the responses are not surprising given the increasing amount of scientific data concerning the effect of music education, there were a few results that were unexpected and shed light on changing attitudes.
A few highlights of the survey include:
- Eighty-seven percent of the teachers surveyed believe that students should have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument while attending grade school, and over eighty percent of parents believe the same
- Nearly two-thirds of teachers and over half of the parents support mandatory music education during middle school
- Well over three-quarters of the participants judge that cuts to music departments are detrimental for all students
- Minority parents are more likely to enroll their children in music training whenever it is available, with over seventy-five percent of African Americans and Hispanics compared to just over two-thirds of Caucasians
- When asked whether they felt that music education was given enough (or equal) funding with similar core subjects, parents and teachers overwhelmingly agree that it is not.
But in addition to these findings, the real evidence is shown when you understand that the participants favored other curriculum cuts rather than having their music departments reduced.
Understanding the Results
Both Parents and teachers recognize that a music education does more than simply teach a rewarding skill. Music training develops other abilities that effect every aspect of life. Children who participate in music studies build critical thinking and problem solving skills, work better within groups (teamwork), and become better listeners. Moreover, they display enhanced academic performance, showing higher marks on standardized tests and report cards.
And because of these facts, the parents and teachers surveyed showed remarkable tenacity concerning not only the protection of their current music curriculum at the expense of other activities, but enthusiastically favored an expansion of musical training opportunities.
When asked which programs they would willingly see cut before a reduction in the music training offered to students was ordained, the results were eye-opening. On a scale of 1 to 15, administration at the state, district, and school level topped the lists of cuts, but AP courses and athletic activities were also preferable to cutting the funding for music education. Indeed, of the 15 areas listed on the survey, all respondents chose over 12 items that they would rather have cut before music.
What It Means
Given the results of this survey, including the regional differences—for instance, results were less dramatic in western portions of the country—the NAMM has developed a set of steps that parents and teachers can follow to ensure that their music programs either flourish or expand. Because essentially, without the support of policy makers and other decision-makers, the troubling trend of music cuts could continue.
A few if the recommendations include:
- Increasing public awareness that federal law considers the arts a “core” subject
- Develop ways to ensure that every child who wants to learn to play an instrument has access to the instrument both at school and at home
- Increasing professional development opportunities for music instructors and teaching professionals
- Build public awareness concerning the use of Title I funds concerning music education
- Enlarge the scope of elementary school music programs to include instrument training and music theory and composition
The results are in and the support has been measured. Overwhelmingly, parents and teachers support music education even when compared to other activities, and therefore, building stronger music programs has become an important issue.