Critics Rip Plan to Relax Music History Standards

News Sentinel, October 21, 2016 | Go to article overview

Critics Rip Plan to Relax Music History Standards


Tennessee fifth-graders would no longer be required to learn about the birth of country music in East Tennessee, the establishment of iconic institutions like WSM and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville or the rise of Elvis Presley and Sun Studios in Memphis, under proposed changes to statewide education standards that are now drawing fire from tourism leaders.

The draft changes from the state' s standards review committee would by no means eliminate Tennessee music from the curriculum. They would, for instance, mandate that third-graders get a more overview of the subject. High school history classes would include references to many Tennessee music institutions, and several elective classes would drill down into the minutiae of state music history.

Though moving to slash current requirements for fifth-grade students, the state Board of Education maintains the planned standards, slated to take effect in 2019, would give local school districts leeway to better incorporate more tailored elements of the state's music history into their social studies classes. The proposed changes must be approved by the Board of Education.

Critics are questioning the proposed standards, arguing that Tennessee students need to learn more about impact of music on the state's history, not less. With music increasingly tied to Tennessee's economic development and tourism strategies, the cultural significance of music history in the Volunteer State has never been more important, they say.

While many Tennessee music institutions will continue to be taught in other classes, Nashville's WSM, the station that spread country music to the nation and helped anchor the music industry here, would be omitted from required classes under the new proposal.

"Education is at the very heart of everything we do at the museum," Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young said. "When we discovered that country music and cultural touchstones like WSM and the Grand Ole Opry were being omitted from the new state curriculum standards at the fifth grade level, we felt compelled to express our opinion and alert others who share in our values.

"Country music is deeply embedded in Tennessee's story. Not to teach it to fifth graders, at a time when they are in a formative period of self-discovery, would deny them a point of pride and a great sense of place. The next generation of Tennesseans deserves to learn about their state's rich musical history."

Aubrey Preston, the preservationist who saved historic RCA Studio A on Nashville's Music Row when it was facing the wrecking ball, said music history is an integral part of a child's education, particularly in Tennessee. …

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