Thursday, June 30, 2011

Notes and Neurons, Mozart & Einstein

I get puzzled by why so many people (often politicians and all too often, school officials) claim that we need more of an emphasis on math and science in our schools because we as a nation are falling so far behind other countries in the world in  grade-level tests 

in these two areas for students .  The prescriptive solution for this glaring failure of our education system according to these people - who seem to be inordinately vocal, and just as inordinately uninformed, is to increase math and science courses for our children, at the expense of the arts or P.E. and other such 'non academic' courses. Somewhere, somehow, they - (whoever it is who buys into this concept), have entirely overlooked what those other countries are doing, and the careers of some very fine musicians, like Albert Einstein, (a very good violinist who loved to play Mozart) or Thomas Edison, or Benjamin Franklin - who were also quite capable scientists as I understand.  Many of our Presidents like Thomas Jefferson have been fine musicians also and a survey of  Silicon Valley start-up companies showed that a majority of the founders of those companies play musical instruments.  Is it coincidence, or a fluke? Or could it be that music and the arts are a constituent part of a complete education - as is P.E. by the way.  Rather than limit a persons potential in math or science, could it be that what the current research tells us about the arts is true when it says that they develop higher order thinking skills, and that the 'mind' is a confluence of physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities, and that divergent thinking, problem-solving, and creativity  are nurtured by the arts and transfer to whatever areas of interest  an individual may choose. 

By the way, - what is it that all of those other countries who consistently outperform American students in math and science have that we don't.  (We typically rank 9th to 11th world wide, however, in 2010, our 15 year-olds dropped to 25th).  Well, two things are certain.  First, - whatever we are doing isn't working, and second, (which may be related),  none of those countries have a No Child Left Behind Act. They also don't have a system of National Standardized Testing or in fact, a common method of program delivery or even a common curriculum. In fact, there seems to be an incredible amount of diversity in the k-12 curriculum that is offered in each of these countries.  So what, if anything do  they all have in common.  Well, according to the report released by "Common Core" - a consortium of public-school teachers, what all the countries that consistently outperform American students in math and science have in common is "a commitment to a well-rounded education that includes the arts".  Hmmmmm. - Who'd of thought. 

Speaking of  scientists and music, what are those scientists talking about, and what is Bobby McFerrin  doing at a recent World Science Festival.   Notes and Neurons? What's going on here?.

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