Sunday, August 9, 2015

Philosophy of Public Education

If it is true that academic achievement is the only goal of public education, then there is no room in the curriculum for music. Thankfully, more than just academic skills are needed in school and beyond. Life skills and social skills are equally important and need to be considered as part of the curriculum. Consider a person who knows everything but is unable to communicate with others and cannot appreciate what they know. Social skills are equally important and must be taught in the public school system. Helping others, respecting others, and communicating with others are all important social skills. Life skills must also be taught, such as budgeting and paying taxes, organizing personal records, cooking and eating healthy foods, exercising and staying healthy, and being creative and productive. Every subject should include academic skills, social skills, and life skills to some degree, which will be discussed below.

But first, consider the individual diffences that every person has. Some people are socially adept, while others are socially awkward. Some are considered geniuses, and some are not. Some people are creative geniuses. Would a person be rightly denied employment if they were socially adept, even if they were not as successful academically? Imagine a company where every employee was an academic genius, but no one had any life skills or social skills. Now, apply this concept to the realm of public education.

Music is a course where students learn life skills by creating music. They also learn to be expressive and work with others - social skills. Academically, they can learn about Bach, the Baroque period, the acoustics of sound, or the definition of andante. However, academics are not the focus of music class, although some administrators around the country are trying to force the issue. Naturally, life skills and social skills are the focus of music classes, and academics come second in importance.

Wait a minute, aren't all three skills to be taught equally to provide the best education? Shouldn't academics be equally important in music to make this a reality? While music stresses life skills and social skills, other courses, such as mathematics, focus more on academic skills and less on life skills and social skills. Students who take both math and music classes get a fairly balanced education as far as these skills are concerned. Just as music shouldn't be asked to focus on academics, mathematics should not be asked to focus on social skills and life skills. Math class should include social skills, perhaps by working in groups or giving presentations, and life skills, such as learning time management and how to calculate a 15% tip, but not to the same degree as academics, which is the foundation of mathematics.

Science tends to be more focused on academics and life skills, and less on social skills. Art focuses on life skills and less on academics and social skills. English is a wonderful subject because it can focus on any of these three. Grammar and literature represent academics, essays and debate constitute communication, and poetry and prose focus on creativity. Shop and Home Ec classes focus on life skills more than academics and communication. Each subject has its focus, and it all comes out to be fairly balanced in the end.

The general concept of my philosophy of education is that a balanced education is better than an unbalanced education. Figure 1 demonstrates my point more clearly. Assuming that all other factors are equal, students who receive only incidental life skills and social skills come away with only 1.5 % capability as a student who receives some formal instruction in life skills and social skills, who receives 87% of the education of a student who learns all three skills equally. The best education is a balanced education, and a naturally balanced education includes a variety of subects that inherently address these skills with different priorities. Therefore, music and art have as much place in the curriculum as mathematics, english, history, and science.