A Few Thoughts on Education
There is an old adage, “Be careful for what you ask for, you may get it.” I was reminded of that this morning when I saw a complaint that education budget cuts were leading to the elimination of music from the public school system.
Just for the record, I can’t remember the last time I saw an education budget cut. Where, on a large scale basis, the funding for a school district was smaller this year than it was last. As in all things government, if we don’t continuously fund everything, those who are unhappy claim it is a budget cut rather than a funding priority and they are lower on the list then all the other things.
So we come to the issue of music and art education. For at least the past thirty years there has been a fervent drum beat by educators, industry, politicians and parents that American youth were lagging behind the rest of the developed world in education. We must focus on improving the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM curriculum, and we have done so at the expense of other programs like art, music and physical education.
We have moved from the principles of Aristotle where we focused on development of the whole. Today we push almost everyone who will fit -- into one of the neat little STEM pigeonholes. Competing with this is the cost of education where school districts must make the hard choices on what they will fund with the dollars available. So given the choice of buying computers, increasing teacher salaries, or hiring a bandleader, too many schools are forced to buy the hardware and sacrifice the latter.
Then we have the continuing argument over the value of education and what and who should pay for it. We want the very best, but we ask so much from our governments that they either have to borrow to pay for it, or sacrifice and pay for what they can. In the case of the Federal government we obviously borrow everything to try and make everyone happy, but local and state governments are not so lucky.
It would be nice if there were a clean, easy to understand, solution but there is not. Too many competing interests overshadow the individual needs of the student and the value of holistic education versus job training.