Forgotten and Frustrated: What About Music and Sports?

While scrolling down my Facebook feed, I came across a post by a Facebook group called The Art of Learning. On February 13, 2015 they posted urging their readers to become part of the largest online protest in history by joining them to protest the testing madness currently consuming our schools. With the current focus on testing causing teachers to “teach to the test” instead of allowing our students to truly learn in an enriched learning environment, programs that are deemed “unnecessary” are being cut. Less of the arts and sports are being made available to our kids, which means many students are being left out – forgotten and frustrated.

As a graduate with an A.F.A. in Music Education, a flute player for 9 years, and a softball player for 13 years, arts and sports education (from hereafter abbreviated as ASE) are vital to a student’s success. Speaking from personal experience, sports and the arts were a crucial outlet for me and without them I wouldn’t have made the friends, memories, or personal growth that I did. While the sciences, math, reading, and other subjects commonly referred to as “important” or “needed” courses are valuable, they don’t allow students to have the same kind of opportunities to develop discipline, focus, and self-esteem. We desperately need to keep ASE in our schools.

In a study published in 2008 by Vanderbilt News, Vanderbilt University’s news site, individuals that were either professional musicians or were not were sampled to compare and contrast the differences in their brains and learning decisions. The results showed that the musicians “more effectively use a creative technique called divergent thinking, and also use both the left and the right sides of their frontal cortex more heavily than the average person” and that those with musical training had higher IQs than their counterparts. What does all of this mean? It implies that musical training may cause individuals to develop more intelligent and more numerous solutions to open-ended, multifaceted problems.

In a very interesting research paper by MK McGovern, the author discusses the benefits of physical exercise. MK McGovern discusses how “[e]xercise exerts its effects on the brain through several mechanisms, including neurogenesis, mood enhancement, and endorphin release” and “how these mechanisms improve cognitive functioning and elevate mood states…” This implies that physical exercise, like the kind you get in gym class or playing extracurricular sports, could improve learning and memory by increasing the creation of new neurons in the brain and could help alleviate stress and anxiety.

There are certainly more advantages and benefits to integrating ASE back into school than those listed and they should all be explored when making legislation that causes teachers to spend more time in a classroom setting than outside, in the art room, or in the band room. Even if these were the only benefits a student could receive from ASE, they are still extraordinary results. The implications that spending more time playing in the gym would cause a child to become less stressed and develop a better memory, the implications that playing an instrument allows a child to become a better problem-solver, the implications that all of this combined could equal higher IQ scores are too powerful to ignore. They’re definitely too powerful to cut out of our school systems.

In 2010 a survey held in California showed that almost half of all of their school districts either cut or reduced their spending on art programs, while others implemented fees to play sports that not all students could afford. With high-stake testing we’re sending a message to our athletes, musicians, and artists that what they’re doing isn’t important. That what they’re doing is extra, added fluff that we don’t need. We’re telling them that unless you’re studying math, language arts, or one of the sciences, you’re an added benefit we don’t have time for.

It’s time to bring the fun back into education. I’ll be joining the online protest on May 1, 2015 and I hope you will be too.

My Sources:

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6 Responses to Forgotten and Frustrated: What About Music and Sports?

  1. marrisarose says:

    I could really relate to this post! I played violin and clarinet for most of my middle school and high school career and I will never forget how important music was to me. I also noticed that the majority of us in music classes were also taken advanced classes. Recently I did a regression analysis on student participation in the arts with grade point average and there was a significant correlation between participation in the arts with sustaining good grades. I wish arts weren’t seen as an “extra curricular” in schools and were seen more as a required part of curriculum. Expression is so important and arts allow students to do that in a controlled space. I am really glad someone decided to write a blog post on arts and education. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. khjinni says:

    I feel like this isn’t an issue just in k-12 schools but also in college. As a high school student, I imagined that I would be able to delve into new subjects and topics that I was interested in but didn’t have the time to pursue due to SATs, gpas, and college preparation. It was my dream to take classes on filmmaking, photography, graphic design, music, etc. in college. But reality hit and with all the scheduling conflicts, along with major requirements, and credit limits, it was impossible to fulfill my creative zeal. It’s a shame to see this happening and I find it extremely paradoxical since universities are continuously looking for “well rounded” students for admission. Not reducing funds for the arts and sciences + PE could be a start to bringing creativity back into education. Participating in such protests and movement individually, then collectively, might be the right move to fix this situation. Thank you for the information on the online protest. I better look into it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. whipp2015 says:

    I definitely agree with your post Kara! I also think that there is a stigma against people who participate in these activities. A lot of people do not think that they are valuable, so they lessen the credibility and the benefits received through sports and music. I know personally that some people do not understand why I take time out of my day to workout when there are so many other “more important” things that I could be doing. If students learn when they are young that being active and creative can help them become more successful and well rounded people I think that would create a large change within society. This is specially important since there is research suggesting that many people in high stress jobs utilize these activities to decompress.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. leighahall says:

    Kara, I think it’s about more than having fun (although the things you mentioned ARE fun!). There are real opportunities for kids to learn differently when they engage in art, music, and sports. I learned a great deal in my music training that benefits me in my job today! When I was a teenager, I played in a band and we wrote our own songs. Writing songs taught me a lot about writing and editing that I have been able to apply to academic writing today.

    When I work with graduate students, I often ask if they ever had any extended experience in the arts – any art form at all – because I think you learn things that can help you in a university career. Sadly, most do not, and I think they would have really benefited from it.

    I’m giving you some time at the end of class on the 24th to highlight your post and talk about the online protest. I’d like you to make people aware of it – just a few minutes to share.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. leighahall says:

    One more thought: May 1st is our final exam – which is from 12:00-2:00. One option here would be to craft our final exam in support of this protest. It could be an option for people in the class. Think about it! Anyone reading this, tell me what you think!

    Liked by 1 person

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