[Opinion] The music we let die slowly at school
A colleague of mine posted a photo on a music teachers’ group this week that read the following suggestion: “remove the music”, “considering that students are not receiving the services expected from the beginning of the year”. This kind of news makes me nervous. Not only because it is a specific example of the state of music education in Quebec, but also because this example is not unique or insignificant.
The hell wheel of our society’s music education? Let’s see.
The music budget is being cut for budgetary reasons or to “diversify the school’s offering”. With fewer resources, teachers (however creative) find it difficult to make the curriculum interesting and engaging, which can lead to student disinterest.
Are students less interested or motivated in music? So we can definitely remove some course periods to give them “the things that really interest them”. And it takes time to implement projects that keep teachers interested and engaged. By increasing the number of classes they have to manage (when the issue is not the number of schools they teach), it takes away from them. This means less quality time and a heavier workload.
Is music under-weighted in the student curriculum? So we can restore our buildings. After all, music can be taught anywhere, right? The overworked music teacher therefore finds himself in a squalid room (often very small and windowless) and when this gives him the chance to have one. Otherwise, he has to share a daycare, a library, or better yet, go from class to class in his cart.
Does your school’s music program offer multiple periods for a large number of groups (and students), with few resources and no buildings? A contract that includes this music program will not be attractive to teachers and risks being accepted by less experienced teachers who have to juggle these types of contracts in several elementary schools. Which will add to the workload, the instability of dealing with different environments and the difficulty of integrating into one or more school teams.
Is there a shortage of teachers? The contract may not find a taker and the school may be left without a music teacher. In high school, we will have a contract so thin that no teacher can make ends meet.
Does the deal find a buyer? Then you’ll have a replacement teacher when you find something better. It is difficult to build a sustainable music department and develop a taste for music in a school where teachers change as often (if not more) than students change grade levels.
Can’t find a school music teacher because of his boring job? Then there will be substitutes, often untrained in music or even teachers without legal qualifications (what a great way to get them into teaching). There is no one providing relevant topic for students. There is no one to chase the learning of music. Someone we will “park” the students for only a period of time so they can experience fleeting moments of “musical activity”. (This is a lovely, movie August Rushbut it is not very nutritious in terms of music education.) And the students will not be interested in music because there will be no one at home to develop this interest.
Are students not getting a quality music education? But why keep the music? If we can’t give quality music lessons “due to lack of staff”, let’s cut them!
This, dear friends, is how long-term music is killed in schools.
Music program, talking. It feeds and needs resources to invest in it. It’s not just a position to be filled, it’s not a time slot to be filled.
We hear more and more public figures talking about the importance of music in schools. There is no longer any evidence of the benefits of learning music. And music teachers have never been more creative in ensuring the sustainability of their curriculum. But there are limits to what creativity and good will can do when rowing alone with administrative hurdles, scarce resources, and a lack of vision.
What is missing is a vision for music education and a willingness to invest in its implementation.
Otherwise, music apps will continue to suffer from a “resource shortage.” And this gradually, silence and the most complete indifference.