Talk to any researcher and they'll tell you that it's very rare to come to a fixed endpoint in a specific field of study. Sure, we agree that cigarettes are bad for you. As are copious amounts of sugar or saturated fats. No need for further studies along those lines.
But in the educational field, the terrain can be far more ambiguous. And in the absence of hard-and-fast evidence, proponents of a cause find themselves barreling ahead in an attempt to find a kind of research-based Rosetta Stone whereby they can definitively say, "See? There. Right there. Case closed."
Take the area of music education. There are no shortage of studies pointing to the value of music education, yet it nonetheless seems to be the first program on the school district chopping block.
The Grammy Foundation hopes to settle this issue once and for all.
A $18,500 foundation grant to a University of Kansas researcher will conduct the "most definitive investigation to date on why music matters in primary and secondary education." The recipient is Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the School of Music. He will examine the effect music participation has on school engagement and academic success in five large Midwestern school districts.
Make no mistake: the study didn't emerge in a vacuum. According to Johnson, it's in direct response to nationwide cuts to arts and music programs in favor of standardized testing programs. Furthermore, despite our thoughts to the contrary, Johnson feels that there still isn't enough compelling data to prove the value of music education. "Many decision makers see the value of music education, but currently existing quantitative data are not persuasive enough to stem the erosion of music programs and opportunity," Johnson said.
Click here to learn more about the study. But in a nutshell Johnson hopes to:
Further understand the nature of student characteristics and to what degree they might predict participation in music programs, to what degree music participation predicts levels of school engagement and academic achievement, and how school engagement predicts academic achievement.
The KU project was one of 20 to receive a total of $300,000 in grant funding from the Grammy Foundation. For recent examples of the foundation's work, check out their efforts in the music preservation, archiving, and yes, music education space.
Speaking of music education, Johnson's thoughts on the matter give us a bit of pause. Less than a year ago we noted a spate of encouraging music education grants and theorized that perhaps the tide had turned. Johnson's project suggests there's more work to do.
Does this mean some people think music education has no value? It's certainly possible, underscoring the phenomenon whereby people remain committed to a dogmatic narrative despite inconvenient facts to the contrary.
To that end, have you checked out Ted Cruz's epic tax cut plan?