Musical Notes on Common Core

Clarinet

I am thrilled to see a unique perspective from a music teacher on common core. As I reflected on my personal experience learning to play an instrument, I find the issue addressed in this article very concerning. First of all, I am not blessed with the natural ability of musicianship. I had to work very hard to be successful in playing the clarinet. I was not blessed with piano lessons as a young child and I had to practice daily to achieve what I have as a musician. Had I encountered the struggles and lack of math skills as a student, as described by this music teacher, I would never had continued as a musician. It was because of a partial music scholarships I was able continue my higher education until I obtained my degree and teaching credentials.  I wonder, what will the future hold, if only those learning to play instruments, are those that it comes naturally too.

As a public school teacher and a mother of children that were in public school (up until this year) I too have seen these changes in math curriculum. Especially in schools, such as our school district,  that use “fuzzy” math such as EveryDay Mathmatics. Here are problems she has seen affect her student’s ability to learn a musical instrument. Read the full article here.

1) An inability to conceptualize multiplication
2) An inability to deal with numbers in relationship to each other
3) An inability to conceptualize fractions or even understand what fractional terms represent
4) Difficulty in applying basic arithmetic to simple concepts within music
5) Physical handwriting skills/Motor Skills
6) Using information made up out of thin air emotionally based when writing essays on composers

The mathematical concerns (1-4)have been part of the Common Core debate.  The dumbing-down of our children’s mathematical abilities is described by Dr. James Milgram and this math teacher .  Looking at concern #5, there are valid arguments that common core’s removal of cursive handwriting and the continued focus on using computers and ipads, rather than physical writing, will continue to affect fine motor skills.  The last concern has been showing up in Common Core aligned curriculum.  Here is an example that is approved for use in Utah school’s, called ” Voices”, for teaching Literature and Writing.  You will see that as early as 1st grade, students are being taught to use emotions, rather than facts and figures to persuade and convince.

I agree with this teacher’s assessment of public education:

…I am completely alarmed on every level possible. I love my students, and I want nothing more than for them to become educated and positive members of our society as adults one day.  If we allow Common Core to become the foundation of our children’s education, the future of America will most certainly change for the worse.   Yes, our schools have slipped in the last two decades and need improvement.  But the Common Core mandate will only bring us further into the depths of producing a completely ill-educated society.