Monday, February 25, 2013

Move Along Mozart....

Can we just get on with it already? I'm here to argue that the Mozart Effect did more harm than good for music education.  Rather than concentrating on real life examples of why music is good for everyone, we instead propped up the data as a reason to advocate for keeping music programs in our schools. Now that we know the study was misquoted and misconstrued pretty much from the get go, the back pedaling begins. 

There were 2 articles regarding this subject that came to our attention this week. The first was a post by Chad Criswell at MusicedMagic called Music Advocacy - First Tell No Lies. To their credit they point out the "ambiguity of the findings" and conclude that this study carried "little or no scientific, data driven weight" but that it  was "the popular media" that "grabbed at the headline of 'music makes you smarter' when in reality the study clearly says that no long term improvements were found."  Kudos for a well written post.

The second was an article by Nick Collins published in the Telegraph (UK) Science section titled Learning instrument does not make children more intelligent, experts claim.  The quick conclusion is that "kids who take music lessons have different personalities, and many or virtually all of the findings that have shown links between music and cognition may be an artifact of individual differences in personality."  In short, "people with specific personalities and with higher levels of cognitive abilities and from more well-off families are more likely to take music lessons."  Well, duh!

Let's stop kidding ourselves shall we? Do we really want to "save" music education?  Then let's start by fostering music making opportunities in our own communities and making music learning fun, hip, and accessible to people of all ages. Let's also remember that's it's NOT about making kids better at math or spatial reasoning, it's about making better communities and more positive human connections through music. 

Perhaps Dan Levitin a psychologist from McGill University in Montreal, said it best, "There are benefits to having a society where more people are engaged with the arts, so even if music instruction doesn't make you a better mathematician or a better athlete, even if it only gives you the enjoyment of music, I think that is a good end in and of itself."  Amen brother!

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