Fairfax: You've got to be kidding
Music education with no instruments?
I wish someone were kidding. But that’s one of the possibilities in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools, one of the finest systems in the country and the largest in the Washington D.C. area, as it wrestles with a projected $176 million shortfall for next year.
My colleague Michael Chandler has a fine story in the Post today about other programs that could be on the chopping block too: Language immersion programs at a dozen elementary schools and an introduction to foreign language at 31 elementary schools.
Also at risk are full-day kindergarten programs.
Here we go again.
Educators decide that learning a foreign language is important for students as they develop into productive adults in the 21st century, and that learning to play an instrument has a slew of important benefits, and then put them first on the chopping block. Kids are now expected to hit the ground running in first grade, and then full-day kindergarten programs are the first to go.
You may look at that list and say that those programs seem like the right place to start if you have to cut. I don’t.
To be sure, there are legitimate arguments about the best ways to teach it, and questions about whether schools do it well. But the need for these programs should not be in question; school systems should be investing in programs that work.
The same goes for music. It should be more than an elective. Music is part of what makes us human, I believe, and so apparently do band boosters at the middle and high school levels who are mobilizing parents to fight cuts to band and strings from all elementary schools.
If the cuts are made, general music education in elementary schools would continue but without instruction in playing an instrument, according to music teachers in the system.
Teaching music without instruments? Is that worthy of one of the finest systems in the country?
If kids can’t learn how to play instruments in elementary school, many of them will never pick one up when they get to middle school because the atmosphere is different and what is “cool” does not include picking up a trumpet, said Zac Gomez, director of the sixth grade band at Poe Middle School. Poe has eight bands today, but if the elementary programs that feed into are cut, not many will survive.
Is that a tragedy of the first order?
No. But it shouldn’t happen, not in Fairfax, not if the folks in charge of the money really believe kids need a well-rounded education to be productive adults in these complicated times.
When can we get policy-makers to look at the hypocrisy of their rhetoric--“Education is the most important thing”--when they keep smashing school budgets to smithereens?
| November 17, 2009; 10:11 AM ET
Categories: Fairfax County Public Schools | Tags: Fairfax County Public School, music education
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