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Music should be at the center of 21st century education

Posted on November 26, 2011 at 11:25 PM

As a musician, I have taken for granted many things that appear to puzzle educational theorists and commentators. Many interesting books dealing with the need for the teaching of "21st century skills" inschools have appeared over the past few years. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Tony Wagner, Thomas Friedman, The Partnership For 21st Century Skills, and many others all refer to or discuss certain skills students need to develop for future success of the USA. The "4 Cs" (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication), Tony Wagner's "Seven Survival Skills for Teens Today" (critical thinking & problem-solving, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility & adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination) and other similar lists, could, in my view, be summarized as "What Every Musician Knows." With a thorough musical education - the study of an instrument, performing in an ensemble, development of aural skills, study of theory and analysis of musical works, and, of course, composition - a student will not simply have had exposure to these "21st Century Skills" but rather have lived them. While I am not advocating for a non-musical utilitarian approach to music education, or in anyway trying to justify the need for music education by highlighting what may be misconstrued as a side-effect, I believe whole-heartedly that by placing this type of music education at the center of a school's curriculum, we would help raise creative, critical thinkers who can work well in a team, know what sort of time it takes to develop a talent or a deep understanding of a subject, and understand how they can contribute to the world around them.

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