Column: Support music education for music’s sake

Shelby Niehaus, Copy Editor

As you may have heard, a standing educational act, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, is being phased out of use.

While the legislature behind NCLB was groundbreaking and ambitious, its pitfalls showed up in practice– namely, its focus on standardized testing as a benchmark for student achievement and its basis for closing schools that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress, even in severely underserved areas.

I can’t say I’m sad to see NCLB go. Even as a child, I knew the act’s demands that 100% of students meet state standards in reading and mathematics was overreaching.

No educational system can reach all students; similarly, no standards system can measure all achieving students as successful.

Taking its place is the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, which passed through the Senate in July.

Notably, this measure extends federal funding to struggling rural schools (an issue near and dear to my heart), offers extended coverage of English Language Learner populations through state legislative coverage, and expands the array of core subjects to include technology, civics and government, economics, and, startlingly, the fine arts.

The fine arts! I’ll let that sink in for you. Under the ECAA, fine arts instructors are once again vital to the educational system.

The pursuits that drove inspired historical figures are now increasingly available to students.

I’m glad to see art taking its rightful place alongside the more practically valued subjects, but I’ve always had a particular soft spot for music education.

It’s been said time and time again, in countless studies, that students who study the fine arts, particularly music, achieve more, tend to have higher self-esteem, and are more successful in math and science than students who don’t participate in music.

However, I don’t want to use these studies as the sole reason for music’s inclusion as a core subject.

Music should be valued on its own as a worthy pursuit. It inspires people to do great things, it surrounds us in almost everything we do, and is one of the markers by which we measure civilization past and present.

Granted, maybe it’s hard to find a job, and a stable one at that, in music.

But when did we decide to give up on the pursuits that made us human? Since when did we decide that the only things worth doing and doing well were the mundanities that generated a little more cash?

Some opponents may also bring up the fact that not every student likes or can be good at music.

The object of core subjects isn’t to make students like a topic, or to make them the best in the field at that topic.

Instead, core subjects are determined by what we as a society feel all students should be proficient in.

Sure, not everyone needs to be the next Einstein, but everyone should have a basic understanding of science, and the same goes now for the fine arts.

I fully support the inclusion of music as a core subject for the sake of music itself.

We would do our students a deep disservice to only provide core subjects that bolstered science and technological fields.

Without support for the fine arts, we would quickly grow into a closed off society, devoid of emotional experiences and the artistic innovations that make our lives worth living.

If you’ve ever loved music or art, you should support a fine arts core, as well.

Let’s rebuild the education system into a place where students become well-rounded citizens rather than skilled test-takers.

Shelby Niehaus is a junior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].