Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Research to Practice: Another Way to Justify Music Education? A Look at the Rise of the Creative Class

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Research to Practice: Another Way to Justify Music Education? A Look at the Rise of the Creative Class

Article excerpt

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Canadian Music Educator/ Musicien éducateur au Canada in Volume 46, Issue 1, Fall of 2004. Richard Florida's new book, The Flight of the Creative Class is an interesting study in exploring where the creative people are migrating and offers further statistical evidence that our economic prosperity now, more than ever, is determined by those who are deemed to be among the creative. This is reprinted with the permission of the author. L.W.

Advocacy efforts of the past ten years or so have focused heavily on the transfer effects of music education - increased spatial ability, raised IQ, better math and reading scores and so on. Some of these effects seem to be standing up to research replication and others are not. Whether teachers have succeeded in keeping programs alive with these often questionable research results is hard to tell. What is clear is that music teachers continue to look for ways to convince cost-conscious administrators to support music programs. An experienced music teacher recently wrote asking "can [you] point me in the direction of some materials I can use as support to help convince the powers that be in my school board to improve the status of Music Education in our school division?" I pointed her to Richard Florida.

The research in the book The Rise of the Creative Class (Basic Books, 2002) by Richard Florida has been garnering much attention in the past year. A conference in Ottawa this spring, with representatives from cities across Canada, focused on Florida's research and how Canadian cities can become more "creative." The data are essentially sociological and economic with the conclusion that the creative ethos is increasingly dominant in our society. More than 30 percent of the workforce now is engaged in creating for a living, hence, the rise of the creative class.

As educators we may see this as more of the "economic justification" for music education - we create artists who make products sold as concerts or recordings and so we contribute to the economy. Although we want to take credit for that, in fact what we do in music class often has very little to do with the popular music industry that is the lion's share of the arts economy. Fortunately, Florida's argument is not this at all. He looks at the kind of person who creates, the values such a person holds, how one becomes such a person, and the environment in which creative activity flourishes. To this we can and do contribute.

The "creative class" in general is described by some writers as "knowledge workers"(coined by Peter Drucker) - people who work in knowledge-intensive industries such as high tech sectors, financial services, legal and health-care professions, education, and business management. Florida includes these but identifies the "super creative core" which produces "new forms or designs that are readily transferable and widely useful-such as....composing music that can be performed again and again." This creative core includes scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers.

Florida maintains that changes in industry, commerce, and the general economy have led to dramatic changes in class structure and specifically in the percentage of the workforce in agriculture, the service class, the working class, and the creative class. According to his research the creative class now includes about 38.3 million in the U.S, about 30 % of the entire U.S workforce. It has grown from the 10% of the work force it was from 1900 to1950, to about 20% of the workforce in the 70's and 80's, to 25% in 1991, and to 30% in 1999.

What this means is that the values and attitudes of this group are becoming highly influential, crossing over to other classes. It also means that our society as a whole relies heavily on this class and must take its values into account. One application is the geography of creativity, a means to rate cities on a creativity index, thereby indicating preferred locations for enterprises that draw on creative people (interestingly, Florida's recent rating of major Canadian cities found most rating high). …

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