Linus had it right. Unfortunately, with recent economic downturn and widespread financial woes, little is left untouched by budget cuts and collapsed funding. Not even education, which is perhaps the most valuable intangible asset, remains unaffected by this gloomy transition. From pink slips to pay cuts to program dissolution, the current condition of public education is less than desirable. Perhaps the saddest loss (from a diversity perspective) is the disappearance of music programs—forget that trumpet your teen wanted to learn. Throughout public education institutions, music programs are slowly dwindling away.
Yet it should be a matter of interest as to why when making financial decisions in the education sector, politicians inevitably choose to let these programs fall by the wayside. Of course no one at all listens to music in the car or on the radio, especially stressed-out politicians after a long day of cutting music programs from our schools. What is it about music that makes politicians turn it into an unwilling altruist within the education system? Perhaps it has something to do with the way it is viewed within our culture.
Yet, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who dislikes music in any culture. After all, there are several ways in which to experience it. There are those who listen to it, play it, study it, compose it, and conduct it (the list goes on), but so far very few exist, if any, that dislike music in every form. Understandably, the different music genres are in no way unanimously pleasing, but music in essence is pleasurable to those who are able to experience it. In fact, music may be one of the few things in life that every person has the ability to connect with on an emotional level. No doubt music was deemed “the universal language” for this very reason. It is a phenomenon buried deep within our evolutionary roots, from when the first caveman smacked a wall with his club to make a beat.
Historical evidence, for example, has corroborated the early beginnings of music in human history with the findings of hollowed-out and carved bones, perhaps the prototypes of modern day flutes—either that, or giant primitive straws. It is evident that the existence of music dates back at least to the times of “the cavemen.” With this in mind, it is even more intriguing to consider why music programs are the first to be eliminated when politicians look to make cuts. How is it possible that something so intrinsically linked with our evolutionary and emotional roots can be dismissed so easily when it comes to matters of money?
The most parsimonious answer to this question is that within the education system, music is perceived as somehow beneath the other curriculum taught in schools. Further thoughts about why music falls toward the bottom of the educational hierarchy are to follow in “Part 2: How we’re letting the music fade.”