I usually don't delve into politics but though I would share inspiring speech since at least one politician is focusing on the importance of music in education. This is not an endorsement nor an invitation for heated political discussion. Just nice to see a politician paying attention to musicians. Thanks to Don Griffin, President, West L.A. Music for bringing this to our attention.
Huckabee – Weapons of Mass Instruction
The 21st century will belong to the creative; they will thrive and prosper, both as individuals and as societies. The creative ones will be the competitive ones. We’re all familiar with the cliché of thinking outside the box. I want American children to think so far outside the box that they’re not even in the cardboard factory. Creativity built this country, and creativity will sustain her as we transition to a global economy. We need to encourage the young people who will have those Eureka moments that give rise to leaps in science and technology, that create jobs, even entire new industries. We need to identify the ones who will take the rough straw of a bright idea and spin it into gold.
How do you nurture something as elusive as creativity? You can’t teach it the way you do state capitals and multiplication tables. You and I know how – by offering art and music to all of our students, all the way through school. So the secret weapons for becoming competitive and creative are art and music, our “weapons of mass instruction.” Yet when school budgets are cut, too often it’s art and music that end up on the chopping block. They say we can’t afford to have them. I say we can’t afford not to!
The arts are a passion, not just a program, for me. When I was Governor, I made Arkansas the leading state in elementary school arts and music education by requiring the highest level of instruction in the country. When I was chairman of the Education Commission of the States, I used that bully pulpit to promote a major initiative called “The Arts – A Lifetime of Learning” throughout the country. In 2005, Americans for the Arts and the U. S. Conference of Mayors gave me their National Award for State Arts Leadership.
Studies have shown a direct correlation between music education and math scores. Music develops both sides of the brain and improves spatial reasoning and the capacity to think in the abstract. Music teaches students how to learn, and the skill is transferable to learning foreign languages, algebra or history.
Students with solid arts programs in their schools are four times more likely to be honored for academic achievement, four times more likely to win an award for an essay or poem, and three times more likely to be elected to student government. Young artists perform community service four times as often and read for pleasure twice as much as other students. Arts education levels the differences in academic performance among students from different socio-economic backgrounds and reduces delinquent behavior. Arts education results in what all parents and school districts are looking to brag about – higher SAT scores.
It infuriates me when people dismiss the arts as extracurricular, extraneous, and expendable. To me, they’re essential to a well-rounded education. If we’re not providing courses in music, theater, dance, and the visual arts, we’re cheating our children. We have to touch the talents of every child, no matter what those talents are. In too many schools, we’re only willing to develop the talents of children who run well, jump high, and throw or shoot a ball. I’m a marathon runner and a sports fan. But for most kids, sports won’t propel them to the next level of success in life. Soon they’ll be spectators of team sports rather than participants. We must have time and money for academics, the arts, and athletics in all our schools.
Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed whether that child is good at shooting a basketball or playing the trumpet. Every child should have a chance to hear the cheers and applause. What about the child who doesn’t have athletic ability? What if someone puts a paintbrush in his hand, and he finds his gift from God? People who never noticed him before suddenly are praising him. Inside every child there are treasures to unlock. We owe it to each one to ensure that whatever his talents are, the doors are open to him.
Some children decide early on that they’re not good at school and they hate it. Art and music can be a way to save these children, to keep them in school. For them biology may be broccoli and Spanish may be spinach, but when they get to art class or band practice, that’s a hot fudge sundae. If it weren’t for these opportunities, where they feel successful and worthwhile, where they’re enthusiastic and engaged, many students would drop out of school. There is an established correlation between arts education and drop-out rates.
Art and music can do even more than keep these children in school, it can give them the confidence to believe in themselves and approach their other subjects with a new attitude and more determination. Instead of berating themselves as slow or stupid, they see themselves as talented, as special. They know they can do things many of their classmates can’t, so why shouldn’t they be able to do things many of their classmates can? They realize that just as learning an instrument takes practice and perseverance, so do their other classes. They come to believe that if they’re good at something, they can be good at a lot of things.
I’m committed to feeding children’s souls as well as their minds and bodies. I want them to make full use of all their talents and find their true purpose. For some children, the discovery of these talents will lead to a fulfilling career in the arts. Without school arts programs, their gifts might remain “buried treasure,” lost to them and all of us. Others will end up in jobs that may not be arts-related or make them feel especially important. But for them the opportunity to play guitar at church on Sunday or lead art therapy for cancer or Alzheimer’s patients on Saturday may be the most satisfying part of their week and give meaning and purpose to their lives.
In 1966, an eleven-year-old boy who loved the Beatles and other rock bands begged his parents for an electric guitar for Christmas. The cost of an electric guitar was beyond the budget of a family like his, who struggled to meet the rent every month. But his parents made sacrifices and arranged to make monthly payments to JC Penny for a guitar and small amplifier costing $99. The boy practiced for hours on end, often playing until his fingers were nearly bleeding. He formed a rock bank while in junior high school and played through his student days at school dances and small shows.
This boy never became a professional musician, he pursued other things, but he never got music out of his system. Today, past fifty, he enjoys it more than ever and still plays in a band with others who have day jobs, but play just for fun. Their band has opened for Willie Nelson, the Charlie Daniels Band, Grand Funk Railroad, Dionne Warwick, 38 Special, and Percy Sledge, and even played at presidential inaugural balls. You’ve probably guessed that I’m that boy, and my band is Capitol Offense. If I’d been a star football player in high school – which I wasn’t – I wouldn’t still be playing full-contact football at my age, but I can still play my guitar, and I plan to be playing thirty years from now. Art and music are not fleeting pleasures, they are pleasures for a lifetime – we never become too old to appreciate as well as participate in them.
So let’s deploy these weapons throughout our country, these peaceful “weapons of mass instruction,” let’s fund them as conscientiously and consistently as we do our tanks and missiles, because they are every bit as essential to our future success.