The Myth of the Cultural Add-on

Music Tuition disappearing from our schools?

When budgets become tight one of the first areas of education to be axed are the arts commonly regarded as add-ons by officials who have no conception of their importance to children’s development.

But rather than being discreet subjects with little relationship to core learning the arts can be a vehicle for learning in reading, writing, maths, social subjects and so on.  Through the arts children improve their critical thinking, cognitive ability and verbal communication skills and enhance confidence.

or see above

Narrow definitions of education demonstrate backward thinking. Talking of which, hundreds of people in Aberdeen, school pupils and parents, have been demonstrating against proposed music tuition cuts which will affect over 14% of the city’s pupils.

While a tiny minority of parents take their kids to music recitals, theatre, museums and art galleries the vast majority do not.  If schools did not provide exposure to the arts these children will grow up socially disadvantaged.  This is not necessarily a class issue but there is a tendency for children from low income households to have far fewer cultural experiences than those from wealthier homes and so it becomes incumbent on our schools to tackle the disadvantage.

It is true that schools find it hard to handle the numerous initiatives which have become crowded into the curriculum but the arts can be easily incorporated right across the syllabus with a bit of imagination and effort.  Several years ago a website was set up for Aberdeen schools called Aberdeen Quest which attempted to do just this. It was linked to Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums collections although strangely I have not seen any references to it in their website or literature so perhaps the problem of cross-referencing does not just lie in schools but within our cultural institutions as well.

Aberdeen Quest demonstrated how the arts could become a vehicle for acquiring skills: counting, writing, concentrating, visualising…at the same time as expanding children’s knowledge of their heritage and wider cultures.

In America many states went down the route Aberdeen looks like taking and cut back on music tuition only to discover their folly and the negative impact the move had on the educational experiences of their young people to the extent there have been moves to reinstate the arts.

For those at the council with an open mind if not already familiar with the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra should look it up now.

In Venezuela young lives have been transformed through involvement in musical programmes with a social mission which resulted in its magnificent Youth Orchestra.

For a 3 min introduction check out:

then come back and tell me music in schools is not important enough to be funded.

The programmes founder, Jose Antonio Abreu’s aimed to help ‘the fight of a poor and abandoned child against everything that opposes his full realisation as a human being’.

To see the orchestra play is one of the most memorable experiences anyone can have. Try it. Recently the orchestra was on television and the programme was totally transfixing. The audience then was made up of the families of the musicians and to see so many very young and teenagers absorbed and moving to its rhythms, eyes wide and so appreciative of the experience was life enriching. And glad to say the orchestra has been remarkably successful for the youngsters involved. It has taken kids, 90% from the poorest areas, and offered them  alternatives to live dominated by crime and drugs.

If Aberdeen is in the business of producing robots for industry then it should go ahead and cut cultural education including music tuition. If there is anyone with influence at the Council who believes education should be about creating well-rounded, creative and informed people who are socially and emotionally mature then there is no question but that it should retain music tuition provision in the city’s schools.

2 Comments to “The Myth of the Cultural Add-on”

  1. Thanks westlothiananswer. I don’t underestimate the difficulties with budgets but the wrong people are making wrong decisions which harm our children and limit their future prospects.
    Always happy to give a plug to fellow sympathetic bloggers.

  2. An excellent reminder of the price we’re going to pay for the arrival in westminster of Thatcher’s children. Aberdeen’s and indeed all of Scotland’s children are going to lose out. Our musical, theatrical and literary heritage depends on the children of today becoming the creators and practitioners of tomorrow.
    Your post is (in those terms) related to a post i put up on my blog about an hour after you posted. Hopefully a wee plug is acceptable 🙂

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

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