Musical Intelligence: The Final Frontier?

By Potter, Rollin R. | National Forum, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

Musical Intelligence: The Final Frontier?


Potter, Rollin R., National Forum


For several decades, America's music educators and teachers have argued for developing and continuing their programs on an array of grounds, all of which were convincing and won approval through community support and dollars. America's growing educational enterprise developed city, suburban, and rural schools, all of which looked for the right formula to educate youngsters and properly prepare citizens for tomorrow. After World War II, an expanding curriculum resulted in dramatic growth for music programs. School facilities included auditoriums and music complexes; programs in instrumental music and choirs became commonplace and often flourished.

This is not to say that what was achieved came easily. The basics, or what we have long called the "three R's," were always the highest priority, yet music offerings found their way into the hearts of most school boards and administrators. Inevitably, some programs were better than others, and all too often quality followed money. Equipment, uniforms, and an amazing list of costly items were provided for students through various funding sources. Parent groups and community organizations stepped forward to make purchases that school boards and tax dollars could not. A blending of budgetary support from school monies and parents was typical and successfully promoted quality instruction. Languages, mathematics, and the sciences led the way in developing the educational community, but music educators, often more tenacious than others, insisted that their programs also be included and developed.

During the past several years much has changed. Reversals in school funding have come to mean that music programs can no longer be sustained. State and city budgets now give priority to citizens' safety, prisons, and health care. Still intent on saving basics, school boards have opted to reduce funding to music programs; many communities have brought them to extinction. In some regions, classical music patrons are fewer, a result of a citizenry less educated in music. In the midst of this, an argument is gaining momentum that could bring us to the final frontier, and which demands that music educators come together in support of a better rationale for including music in the education of young people.

The argument is one that many have known all along. Psychologists, who have often focused on telling us that some of us were brighter than others and why, now recognize theories of multiple intelligences. Howard Gardner, author of Frames of Mind ( 1983), Multiple Intelligences (1993), and Creating Minds (1993), argues that individual capabilities exist in at least seven intelligences: linguistic, logicalmathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Gardner, a musician himself, believes that IQ tests are limited in predictions of success and achievement. …

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