The American Psychological Association recently published an article that repeats what we already know: that, on average, music students perform better in their non-music classes than non-music students do. Arts educators and institutions have been sharing this article in droves recently.
As arts educators, we know why music students perform better in their non-music classes than their peers. Music students have to think in multi-dimensional ways. They have to be able to take a chord and analyze and think about it and visualize it like Tony Stark was able to visualize holographic 3D models of his next invention. Music students have to learn perseverance; one can’t rehearse a four-measure phrase for an hour without some measure of stick-with-itness. But…
If we use this information to justify music’s (or, more generally, the arts’) existence in school, we do so at our peril. If we include the arts because they help students perform better in other classes, the arts will always be of secondary value. If a music student begins to fail English, then music must not be doing its job for that student. Pull him from band and put him in an academic strategies class. If an art student begins to fail chemistry, then art is not doing its job for that student. Pull her out of art and place her in tutoring, or virtual school, or any of the other remedial options we make available to students.
We should justify the inclusion of arts curricula in school for one reason:
In their own right, the arts are worthy of study and inclusion in all educational realms.