The Most Common Arguments Against Music Education (& How to Counter Them)

“I would teach children music,physics and philosophy;but most importantly music,for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning” -Plato

Why Music Education is Under Attack

It is a universally held belief that everyone has the right to his or her own views and beliefs. People have been debating and arguing on just about everything, for as long as we have been alive. In fact, our current culture has been a strict supporter of this very freedom. Right now, a popular topic under fierce discourse, is whether or not to allow music to be taught. The popular stance is that music education is not a necessity, should strictly be for entertainment, and is an altogether frivolous enterprise. But, practically everyone enjoys listening to music, right? So why all the fuss over something  that’s enjoyed by so many? The bottom line is more about the value of music versus practicality of music.

On the opposite side, the advocates for music education are up against this criticism from a great many different angles.  So what happens when the arguments are measured off of ‘research’ and ‘hard facts’ among the different positions? There is a blurred line between what is really just a disagreement and what could be a simple case of misinformation. It can quickly become quite overwhelming for the well-intentioned patrons of the musical arts to keep their voice relevant and properly heard. 

We are here to help you navigate around the controversy and supply you with a detailed account of common dissension of music education, and how to counter the negativity.

Music Programs Cost a lot of Money

It’s no surprise that music is a billion dollar industry. It’s everywhere you go. Really, it is a genius way to make a quick and abundant profit. This means that proper, well executed music programs can be just out of reach for the working class. It can be argued that the exclusivity of a private lessons can provide a much better music education than, say, learning to play by listening to the radio.

Our public schools are struggling for funding for even the most basic needs like textbooks and paper. So they are getting rid of programs that aren’t deemed necessary. More than ever, people are cutting corners to make budget cuts work and unfortunately music is on the top of that list.  

If you need help getting music funded for your school or for private use consider seeking out a grant. The D’Addario Foundation and the NAMM Foundation grant an incredible $600K annually. For further assistance, look to your community for donations of materials and instruments. Do not take ‘no’ for an answer when trying to afford music. Music should be made accessible to everyone, and until that day comes, we have to work together to make the dream happen. So host fundraisers and lock in those grants!

Music is Just a Distraction From Academics

A surprising amount of people hold the opinion that music is ‘just noise’ and inessential to performing well in school. Claims that students waste too much time on practicing or the time spent on music trips takes away from where kids really need to be: the classroom.

We urge you to spread the wonderful news that music actually helps to improve academic performance. The left side of the brain function where creativity and fine motor skill are located, is activated by music! Students benefit from using that part of their brain if they want to become a surgeon or professional athlete! And according to NAfME, there were ‘studies that showed increased mathematical aptitude and reading comprehension’ among student musicians. 

Competition and Rivalry is Unhealthy

Music programs by default come with the need to practice to become proficient at the craft. It also often means the need for competing for certain positions, chairs, solo acts and record deals, just to climb the ranks in music industry. It’s a slow process that involves a ton of commitment, and this will inevitably last throughout the duration of a musician’s career. It has been argued that this seemingly daunting process leads to low self-esteem and poor competitive values. However, this does not mean that music programs force children to become ‘divas’!  

On the contrary, music is in actuality a team sport!  Speak up and remind the naysayers that an orchestra is a sum of all it’s parts that needs every single person to make that magic happen!  After all, that award winning band with the incredible lead singer simply cannot exist without his back up singers, guitarists, drummer, dancers, and audio engineers. If the media tells us anything, it’s that being easy to get along with is more than half the battle to becoming an esteemed artist. So make sure you teach all of your students proper decorum in and out of the learning environment. Teach them that there is honor in doing their personal best. We must remind ourselves that music is supposed to be something that continues to feel rewarding. So as long as making music doesn’t cause undue stress and hardship on a pupil then there really is nothing harmful with healthy competition.

Remember to listen to your children, too. For example: If you have a student who really does not like piano, get to the bottom of it as soon as you can. Start by opening up a dialogue. There is absolutely never a need for stress or tantrums to occur. You may just need to select an instrument that he or she would rather play. Students of any age or talent level can suffer a burn out. There is a good reason why you see so many pop stars on vacation!  At the end of the day, we need to teach our children how to be a good sport and instill a sense pride (this means to be encouraging and kind to one another, even if it’s their ‘competition.’) Learning this will set up your future rock star to be someone respected and adored by the public.

Music is not a Legitimate Career or Hobby

Venturing onto a path related to music can be a rocky road full of people telling you it just isn’t a realistic endeavor. A lot of us are discouraged away from music at an early age.  What’s worse, is that so many people view music as just a ‘pipe dream’. The odds are stacked against us from the get go. If you ever day dreamed that you were Michael Jackson, you may have been told that you could never follow the same path, and you believed it. So you gave up, and joined the swim team instead.

In general, most people mean well and simply wish to save you from the crippling disappointment ‘failure would surely bring upon you’. It’s very unfortunate that we are conditioned to believe that we need to get a real job. Did you know that parents are ten times more likely to save money to fund sports programs than a bandcamp they never heard of? This is because sports will give you that scholarship to college.

Perhaps you don’t have big dreams of the open road, but find music as a hobby to be a really great form of expression. Let’s face it, it just isn’t commonplace for someone to admit they play a clarinet for fun. Without a doubt, people are quick to brush the idea off. If you’ve given up on music, don’t let the world tell you that you can’t. No one ever became successful at anything by never trying. Music does not have to be a dead end. It can open so many, many doors. Music is not a one size fits all mold either. Everyone belongs.

Be A Music Champion

It goes without question, that we need to champion our musicians and art makers!  Without them, the world has no music. Can you even imagine how strange (and painfully boring!)  this life would be without any of your favorite songs, instruments or musical production? Keep the music alive, and do not lose faith. Music is not going anywhere, any time soon,

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