My friend and glass blowing artist extraordinaire, Jon Offutt recently sent me a Huffington Post editorial called “Stop ‘Defending’ Music Education” by Peter Greene.
The premise of Greene’s thoughts are that we have gotten too caught up in using music education to defend higher test scores, better attendance at school and as a solution to other problems that schools face.
For the purposes of this column, delete music and simply say “the arts” because when we at The Arts Partnership are talking about the value of the arts, we mean all of them: visual, performing, music, craft and more.
Green says, “There are so many reasons for music education. And ‘it helps with testing’ or ‘makes you do better in other classes’ belong near the bottom of that list.”
I agree, but I also know that we live in a time and place where measurable value is the king of the hill. Art for art’s sake, or even art for human’s sake, doesn’t easily get people to support the arts. But sometimes art for better educated students’ sake does.
So how do we manage this disconnect?
Green continues, “Music is universal. It’s a gabillion dollar industry, and it is omnipresent. How many hours in a row do you ever go without listening to music? Everywhere you go, everything you watch — music. Always music. We are surrounded in it, bathe in it, soak in it. Would you want to live in a world without music?”
Think about any random hour in any random day. What are you wearing? What color and shape is your coffee mug? What is the design of your car? What about the cut and color of your hair? Makeup? Earrings? Glasses? Briefcase or purse? The frame on your desk? The shape of your computer or cell phone? The music or video you are watching on your device?
All of that is art. Every single one of those items, and just about everything else, is art, in one form or another.
Remember, we have art older than agriculture. People drew images to express their experiences before they formally learned to feed themselves. What does that tell you?
I think it tells you that art is intrinsic to who we are as human beings; it’s what makes us human, and it’s what fills and unites humanity.
“Listening to music is profoundly human. It lets us touch and understand some of our most complicated feelings. It helps us know who we are, what we want, how to be ourselves in the world. Music makes the fingers we can use to reach into our own hearts” Green notes.
“We human beings are driven to make music as surely as we are driven to speak, to touch, to come closer to other humans.”
Yes, measuring the value of the arts is important, and we will continue to do that, but it’s at equally important to simply know that art matters. Period.
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and originally appeared in print on Monday, September 18, 2017.