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Music and Arts Courses Disappearing From Curriculum,

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Commission Warns By Debra Viadero

Washington--Education in music and the arts is "being pushed to the periphery of public-school curricula," a national commission of educators, performers, and music-industry officials warned last week.

In a report released at its national symposium here, the National Commission on Music Education sounds a battle cry for more instruction in music and the arts in the schools. It calls on all high schools to make studies in the arts a requirement for graduation, and urges President Bush and the nation's governors to rethink their neglect of these fields to include arts education in their national education goals.

"Public education in America is losing its soul," begins the 46-page report, "Growing Up Incomplete: The Imperative for Music Education."

"As music and the other arts are pushed steadily to the curricular periphery," it continues, "our schools are losing touch with a unifying force that can help young people connect what they learn to its enduring meaning for the human spirit."

The report is the result of a yearlong investigation by the 60-member commission, which includes prominent figures in education and the arts. (See Education Week, Sept. 19, 1990.)

The panel was formed last year by the Music Educators National Conference, the National Association of Music Merchants, and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in an effort to give music and arts instruction a higher profile in the education-reform movement.

The organizations have also collected 150,000 signatures on a petition calling for more attention to the arts and have produced public-service announcements on the subject featuring Johnny Cash, Tony Bennett, and other entertainers. The announcements, along with other resource materials, will be made available later this year to parents and others lobbying state and local school boards for more arts instruction.

"It has taken 20 years for government to decimate the music- and arts-education foundation in this country, and it will take 20 years to get it back again," said Michael Greene, president of the recording academy. "This is where it starts."

The panel's report notes, for example, that:

Of the 29 states with graduation requirements that involve music and other arts, 13 accept courses in home economics, industrial arts, humanities, foreign languages, or computer sciences as alternative ways of meeting those requirements.

The percentage of high-school students enrolled in music classes declined from 30 percent in 1950 to 21.6 percent by 1982.

More than half of the nation's school districts either do not have a teacher with a degree in music education or employ one only part time.

In a 1985 survey, 80 percent of all adults said that they had not taken a music-appreciation course before age 24.

"We're not being so self-serving as saying all students should have music; we're saying music has a lot to offer," said Karl Glenn, president of menc. He said such studies help students learn to think critically and creatively and can keep some uninterested or at-risk students from dropping out of school.

"Music and the arts are becoming an elitist kind of education in this country, and the kids that need music most are the ones not getting it," he said.

Copies of the report are available for $7.95 each by writing menc Publications Sales, 1902 Association Drive, Reston, Va. 22091.

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