Over the past decade, the music education community has been on the defensive, forced to advocate for music’s value in a test-obsessed education climate. Yes, music is invaluable in helping students perform better on core curriculum subjects. But, as Music in Our Schools Month gets underway, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) says it’s time to break out of this narrow and frustrating framework and emphasize the unique benefits of music in the classroom.
In late February, NAfME launched a new campaign called the “Broader Minded” movement. Its mission is to challenge the assumption that music is merely a “supplement” to the core curriculum and proclaim that, while data such as grades and test scores may be valuable, music education offers a unique opportunity to engage deeply with students’ creativity, curiosity, and motivations.
“Every time that we, as a music education community, profess that students should have access to music so that their brains become better wired to solve math equations, we provide ammunition to the camp of ‘education experts’ who proclaim that music is an interchangeable, or, even worse, expendable, classroom experience,” explains Christopher Woodside of NAfMe’s Center for Advocacy and Public Affairs.
Moving forward, says Woodside, the focus should be on the student, not the test score.
The “broader minded” argument for music education calls on all education stakeholders to look beyond specific achievement measures (the “inside the bubbles” benefits) and extol the unique, “outside the bubble” benefits. These include fostering 21st century skills such as critical thinking and collaboration, and more intrinsic benefits, such as creativity, discipline, greater emotional awareness, multiple ways of learning, and greater self-confidence. Collectively, they present a powerful case that music education in our schools is irreplaceable.
“Music education, for its own sake, is indispensable to providing students with a rich and comprehensive learning experience; it is a ‘core’ tenet of the school day,” says Woodside. “In order for our advocacy efforts to be truly successful, we must begin to talk about it in that way,”