IN a display of unprecedented unity, the nation's music and
educational communities have sent an urgent message to federal and
state policymakers: "America is losing its soul" - musically
speaking, that is.
Composers, rock musicians, music teachers, principals, and others
have raised their voices demanding that music and other arts be
included at the center of school curricula, because experience in
the arts is "fundamental to what it means to be an educated person."
In a report presented to members of Congress in March, the
recently formed National Commission on Music Education calls for a
more balanced approach to education reform efforts. Government
leaders have expressed alarm over falling math and science scores,
the commission says, but when it comes to student participation in
the arts, they have been silent.
"We believe such nearsighted concern shortchanges our children
because it leaves them only half-educated," the report states.
One example of disproportionate funding and attention, it says,
is that the United States government spends 9 1/2 cents on arts
support for every $100 it spends on support for science. Indeed, the
National Science Foundation expenditures for science education ($180
million out of $1.8 billion) exceed the entire budget of the
National Endowment for the Arts ($170 million).
Beginning last fall, arts advocates held public forums in Los
Angeles, Chicago, and Nashville to gather data for the report and to
hear witnesses tell of a decline in music and arts education in the
Stuart Gothold, superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office
of Education, testified that 99 percent of children in his district
do not receive a comprehensive K-12 arts program. When budget cuts
loom, music and art programs are considered the most expendable,
other testifiers said, because of a perception that the arts are a
diversion or "curricular icing."
"This perception has been around for a long time," says Karl
Glenn, president of Music Educators National Conference, in a phone
interview. His organization sponsored the forums and the report
along with the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Inc.
and the National Association of Music Merchants.
"It's important not to separate the arts out from other parts of
life. Art and life are one," says Mr. Glenn, who is also orchestra
director at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.
THE report was prompted, says Glenn, by the omission of any
reference to the arts in the 1990 statement of six educational goals
outlined by the president and the nation's governors.
"Growing Up Complete: The Imperative for Music Education" follows
a 1988 report called "Toward Civilization: A Report on Arts
Education" issued by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) at
the request of Congress. "Growing Up Complete" is meant to be a
private-sector extension of the latter, Glenn says.
More than 60 national and international groups have endorsed the
report, including Future Business Leaders of America, the
Educational Testing Service, the National School Boards Association,
and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. …