Teachers of STEM/English, what reasoned argument/experience would convince you that music is an important curriculum subject?

(55 Posts)
MissTriggs Sat 20-Jun-15 15:03:46

Lots of worry in the music ed. Community at present about the EBAAC and in general the government's attitude to music education.

Generally the music ed people avoid making an argument that music might be useful for improving English/maths/science but given that the election is 5years away I think that we might have to change that argument.

So I wondered: what would convince teachers of "core" subjects and/or leadership teams that music education in school is or could be important and what would such a music education look like?

All thoughts appreciated

Bonsoir Sat 20-Jun-15 15:07:58

I think good arguments for music education are:

- performance: getting up in front of an audience and putting on a good show is an increasingly vital skill in the modern world and music is the ideal medium for DC to learn to do this

- group work: learning how each individual instrument/player/voice work together to form a greater whole is vital preparation for working in a team

- voice: learning to regulate one's voice through singing

MissTriggs Sat 20-Jun-15 17:43:54

Thanks Bonsoir,

I think your points are well-made. I worry though that they achieve things that could be achieved in a good English lesson. What do you think about the study of patterns-of-sound-in-time helping with other academic subjects? Is there a decent argument to be made that this could help, say, the study of poetry?

Bonsoir Sat 20-Jun-15 19:51:48

Personally, I think that the argument that music supports other academic subjects is weaker than the argument that music provides an alternative, more enjoyable and accessible medium to teach the skills I describe. Some DC are great at singing/choreography and absolutely awful at English or sport.

YvyB Sat 20-Jun-15 22:56:32

Decoding skills - it's another form of language, just like reading. Phrasing works like punctuation, notes work like words. You have to listen, anticipate, practice - all of these skills support the learning of core subjects.

I'm an English teacher. I'm also a grade 8 flautist. I'm a parent too, and the one rule I absolutely insist on is that my ds does his music practice every night. I don't care if he never touches his instrument again as an adult: the skills he's learning THROUGH music now are invaluable.

Oh, and my brother is a professor in a science based subject at a Russell group university and, yup, he's a musician too. As is his wife, a Dr.

EvilTwins Sun 21-Jun-15 01:04:33

I don't thnk that arguing the case for music on the basis that it supports other subjects has any point at all. I teach drama and so I share similar concerns, but I think that we need to continue to push for these subjects being worthwhile in their own right - not simply as a way to support others. There is a need for a broad and balanced curriculum. The EBacc is one thing, but the marginalisation of the Arts is very sad. There is plenty of stuff about it on Twitter - Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) who is HT of Highbury Grove School in London is one person who speaks a lot of sense.

BookSnark Sun 21-Jun-15 01:16:43

I think the problem is that music-as-a-curriculum subject is watered down to fuck.

MissTriggs Sun 21-Jun-15 10:44:18

Thanks Bonsoir flowers

YvyB - Thank you so much for that response. I would use different vocabulary but I agree with you. What you call decoding is I think what I would call "notational audiation" - to look at a piece of sheet music and hear sounds in your head and feel pulse. It's really another way of playing by ear.

Hi EvilTwins, yes, what you say reflects the current trend. Do you think that music does support other subjects? Or doesn't? Or that it doesn't matter? I think that the arguments based on "evidence" (Mozart effect and the like) are rightly rejected by the music ed community. But once we clear those away, is there no space to think through the links?

Booksnark, couldn't agree more. Much confusion amongst those teaching music about what it is. Much distraction of competing pedagogies and in-fighting. Much less confusion in art and drama, they send a clearer message.

TheTroubleWithAngels Sun 21-Jun-15 12:37:38

From a primary perspective, the thing about music is that it really needs proper teachers. Teaching music is a talent, IMO. We once had a visiting specialist from Oxbridge who was hopeless with the kids. He couldn't connect with them at all. Our current specialist is brilliant. I would say he really has a gift for teaching music.

I can muddle along in art or PE, but there is only so far I can go in music. I can't read music and I don't have a musical ear.

YvyB Sun 21-Jun-15 15:44:51

It does need proper music teachers, I agree.

Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for teaching music in schools I,ve ever heard was from the headteacher of a very successful independent school. We were chatting about how important music has always been to me and how it gives people a non-verbal outlet for a whole range of emotions that words just don't cover. When I said that there had been times in my life where I just needed to be by myself and play the piano and that I didn't know how people who didn't have access to creative arts could process those experiences and feelings, he simply said, "They don't process them, do they? They do negative, self-destructive things with them instead."

dementedma Sun 21-Jun-15 15:53:00

Will never forget dd2s English teacher telling her that her C in English was disappointing ( she is dyslexic!) and asking if she had done better in other subjects. (Scottish Highers). DD said she got an A+ for music, the only student to do so and English teacher said, " Yes, but I meant in proper subjects!'

CamelHump Sun 21-Jun-15 15:58:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 21-Jun-15 16:00:57

It's an important subject because children should have access to a rich curriculum. That's it really I think. I teach Science.

I think for schools though, the expense of music (and music tech) is an issue. Class sizes are often small, and the equipment is expensive.

CamelHump Sun 21-Jun-15 16:10:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OddBoots Sun 21-Jun-15 16:16:53

I find this less than 5 minute Ted talk quite a good argument.

MissTriggs Sun 21-Jun-15 16:33:21

TheTroubleWithAngels, are you a primary class teacher? Class teachers do feel a great lack of confidence. I think the blame for this lies with the music ed. communities which are very fractured, often stuck in one style and sending out mixed messages.... I doubt you receive such mixed messages from art specialists.

MissTriggs Sun 21-Jun-15 16:40:49

YvyB - yes - a non-verbal outlet. The term I would use is "non-discursive reasoning" (so art is another form of non-discursive reasoning). There is logic, order, development, etc but it cannot be captured in words.

Some people say that the public schools do lots of music largely because it's a "conspicuous prosperity" activity, like going on the Grand Tour or playing polo. I'm sure some of the choices they make (euphoniums not ukuleles) are about demonstrating social cachet, and of course in a bad school that might come to the fore, but even once we factor that in I think their example is worth noting.

MissTriggs Sun 21-Jun-15 16:42:33

Demented -oh dear, and that sort of thing just makes the chasm bigger..... People become entrenched.

TheTroubleWithAngels Sun 21-Jun-15 16:42:52

TheTroubleWithAngels, are you a primary class teacher? Class teachers do feel a great lack of confidence. I think the blame for this lies with the music ed. communities which are very fractured, often stuck in one style and sending out mixed messages.... I doubt you receive such mixed messages from art specialists.

Yes. I have to admit that the last time I saw an art specialist was in college, whereas my LA are quite good with specialist music and PE provision (well, until the next round of cuts).

MissTriggs Sun 21-Jun-15 16:48:28

FallenMadonna, sounds as though you don't "feel" a link.

Re expense, would you find it useful to be able to access the instruments to teach physics? The stringed instruments and the horns can both be used for basic work on wavelength and frequency? Music teachers could be trained to understand this better? A more disciplined cross-curricular approach that would save the purchase of other resources? Similarly, the instruments are interesting in their mechanical nature -a bit like steam-trains!

BoffinMum Sun 21-Jun-15 16:48:49

1. It teaches listening and focus. Children who have performed in choirs and orchestras develop an enhanced ability to focus on instructions, close read text, and maintain concentration even when attention is not on them at the time.

2. It enhances cognitive development. The skills needed to decode music aurally and visually use a similar set of skills to some branches of mathematics, and can therefore accelerate attainment in this (if it is properly taught - bashing about on xylophones once a week is not what I mean here).

3. In the case of dyspraxic children, learning instruments can improve muscle tone in their hands and upper body and also improve proprioception.

4. In the case of asthmatic children, learning proper breath control as a result of voice training (done properly) can reduce inhaler reliance.

5. The biggest thing it teaches is resilience and perseverence, as repeated practice is required in order to make improvement.

BoffinMum Sun 21-Jun-15 16:50:27

PS I don't think many educationalists or music educator would disagree on the points in my post - they are pretty widely accepted.

MissTriggs Sun 21-Jun-15 16:57:31

Oddboots. Thank you! I was a bit reluctant to watch the video because there is a tendency on the part of music advocates to engage in what could politely be called "neurobabble" and so the better people tend to shy away from this (stuff like "Mozart effects" has given this kind of work a bad name). Maybe we need to ask more about what neurologists know with confidence and what is mere speculation....

howtodrainyourflagon Sun 21-Jun-15 16:57:33

I'd use the argument that it just makes us all that bit more alive. I don't really care whether it makes kids faster at times tables or better at spelling.

It's depressing how it's treated in some state schools. My dc have all attended classes out of school where they're taught, in group classes, by musicians. In school they have half an hour of singing with a class teacher, and occasionally bang drums. They never learn musical notation as that's too elitist and hard.

The secondary nearest to us doesn't offer music at all - no class music lessons, and no music GCSE or BTEC - just two periods of "performing arts" every week. No individual music lessons or orchestra or band. The others are mildly better, in that some offer music GCSE and others music BTEC, but there seem to be low expectations and low aspirations. The county music service has been cut so much as to be pointless, as so few children can now benefit from it.

museumum Sun 21-Jun-15 16:57:54

Am not a teacher but do work in STEM education.
I'd be asking whether music has sorted itself out regarding what should be taught to all pre-options vs what is a basis for those interested in / talented in music or even just those who will continue.
I studied sciences and chose Art as my music/drama/art choice. I did play an instrument to grade4.
I don't remember doing anything useful or interesting in the music classes I had before options.

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