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Music Training's Cognitive Benefits Could Help "At-Risk" Students

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the every-gambler-brews-delicious-framboise dept.

Music 58

AthanasiusKircher writes In recent years, emphasis on standardized testing and basic skills has forced many schools to cut back on things like arts and extracurricular activities. A study out this week from Northwestern University hints that schools may be hurting "at-risk" kids even more by cutting such programs. Just two years of music lessons were shown to have significant effects on brain activity and language processing which the researchers argue could help close achievement gaps between at-risk students and more affluent students. Aside from better brain response to language observed in the lab, practical effects of the interventions were readily apparent: 'Leaders at Harmony Project approached the researchers after the non-profit observed that their students were performing much better than other public school students in the area. Since 2008, over 90 percent of high school seniors who participated in Harmony Project's free music lessons went on to college, even though the high school dropout rates in the surrounding Los Angeles areas can reach up to 50 percent.' Note that this is only one of several ongoing studies showing significant cognitive benefits for music training among at-risk students; an article last year from The Atlantic gives a more detailed summary of related research.

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An article on "closing the achievement gap"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47832639)

Ooh! Count me in before someone mentions bringing the top down!

The study is a shenanigan (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47832863)

A study out this week from Northwestern University hints that schools may be hurting "at-risk" kids even more by cutting such programs. Just two years of music lessons were shown to have significant effects on brain activity and language processing which the researchers argue could help close achievement gaps between at-risk students and more affluent students

That so-called "study" in that "Northwestern University" isn't even qualified as "study" at all, since the whole thing was run based on a certain pre-set agenda --- to find ways - by hook or by crook - to "help" the so-called "at risk students"

These types of so-called "study" are nothing but a waste of tax-payers money

Re:The study is a shenanigan (1)

dysmal (3361085) | about 3 months ago | (#47834203)

I'm guessing by your excessive use of " " you're trying to question the validity of the study based on the name of the university. http://www.northwestern.edu/ [northwestern.edu]

Re:An article on "closing the achievement gap"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47832993)

can anybody tell me why this article is marked SPAM?

http://slashdot.org/submission/3822265/e-cigarette-warnings-are-alarmist

Arts in Education (5, Insightful)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 3 months ago | (#47832679)

While (correlation != causation) and all that, there really is a pretty extensive research base showing the benefits of music (and the arts in general) for students.

Education these days has been very, very focused on something called convergent thinking - basically, being able to choose the right answer from a short list. We've bought into the myth that all you need to succeed in STEM fields is convergent thinking, so that's what's taught.

The arts, by contrast, develop divergent thinking. Creativity, and the ability to generate multiple possibilities for the same problem. ("Should I lay out my artwork this way or that way? What if I try improvising a new melody in this part?")

In reality, we need both. Students who are "Masters of STEM" in K-12 often run into trouble when they realize the world isn't full of convenient lists from which we have to pick the right answer.

Think about the job of the guy who has to build a bridge over a river. He isn't handed a list of four bridges, conveniently labelled A through D, and has to pick between them. No, he first needs to generate a variety of possible bridges (divergent thinking) and then sort through them to find which one is most optimal for his constraints (convergent thinking). There's often not a clear "right answer" - one bridge might be 20% more expensive, but 2% less likely to collapse in a major earthquake.

So even if you don't use the arts directly, they can be very useful for cultivating a different mindset from what we're beating into our students these days.

Re:Arts in Education (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47832719)

> So even if you don't use the arts directly, they can be very useful for cultivating a different mindset from what we're beating into our students these days.

Very much this.

And then: TEACH MATHS AS AN ART. Just forego this stupid rote learning and teach the beauty in maths. Or in physics. Or in chemistry. Or in some engineering field.

Re:Arts in Education (2)

dywolf (2673597) | about 3 months ago | (#47833409)

bingo exactly.

School and education isn't a vocational program and shouldn't be approached as one.
It's about learning to appreciate knowledge, learning to learn, etc.
If you can give kids that wonder and appreciation, they will carry with them into their adulthood.
Not everyone will appreciate math, or art, but maybe something else will catch their eye. But they'll never know if they arent exposed to it, if their boundaries arent pushed.

The vocations will come on their own for most folks as a side benefit, without reducing education policy into "school gets jobs". For any actual vocational knowledge that much come now to get a job, theres always vocational school. But that doesnt mean all schooling must be vocational in nature.

So many of our nation's problems stem from that very basic dumbing down of how we approach school. People dont like learning, and so they dont do it. They learn just enough to stick with their current job, then watch foozball and drink beer to numb any dissatisfaction at a dronelike existence as they wither away as another infinitely replaceable cog in the machine that makes someone billions he'll never spend.

Re:Arts in Education (1)

MyNicknameSucks (1952390) | about 3 months ago | (#47833479)

When I was a kid, the math model taught at my school was something along the lines of, "If you show kids the math and some of the underlying principles, it will eventually all come together." It didn't work for me -- I just didn't get it, but it worked well for a handful of my classmates who went on to successful careers in engineering and coding. What did work was hours' worth of flashcards on road trips drilling times tables into my thick skull. Over time, I also picked up some tricks for estimating sums in my head (and for most things in my life, estimates are good enough).

But I was never particularly good at algebra, physics, or trig. They're too abstract for me to wrap my head around.

But give a bunch of prices to add in my head? And figure out the sales tax? And tip? I got that covered -- that stuff I can do faster and more accurately in my head than people who had better than 90% grades in high school math, and, in some cases, university math. As an adult, I've read a lot of popular science books about physics; I love the ideas, but if you show me a page of equations, it's all Greek to me.

My point? Kids learn differently. What works for one, might not work for another. There's no one size fits all method for teaching kids; that's why it's imperative to give kids a variety of different experiences at school and figure out which methods work best for different kids.

FWIW, reading to your kids is also shown to be (arguably) the best thing you can do for ensuring their academic achievement.

Math as a foreign language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47834179)

I'm teaching calculus; I teach it as a foreign language. So many of the concepts, words and glyphs are foreign, as is the "grammar" that I've found I have to reteach math as a foreign language so they can have enough understanding of the algebra to grasp the calculus principles. I really don't care if they can algorithmically apply calculus rules; I can train a monkey to do that with enough bananas, and CAS systems are what they'll use beyond the junior year of engineering school, if that long. However, if they speak the language, they can read, write and converse in the language.

Re:Arts in Education (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47832857)

While (correlation != causation) and all that, there really is a pretty extensive research base showing the benefits of music (and the arts in general) for students.

Most of the research out of the social sciences (and the poorly-designed tests they like to give) is absolute garbage; biased, not rigorous, and subjective. Unless they get their act together and produce more quality research like you'd see out of a field like physics, it can't be taken seriously.

No claims of vague, subjective benefits will change any of this.

Re:Arts in Education (1)

mean pun (717227) | about 3 months ago | (#47833195)

Your sweeping evaluation of the entire field of social sciences is of course not at all subjective, so you can back this up with rigorous peer-reviewed research. Citations please?

Re:Arts in Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47833273)

Your sweeping evaluation of the entire field of social sciences is of course not at all subjective

It is subjective. Then again, where did I label my observations as science? Others [slashdot.org] have observed similar things, but I'm still not going to call my opinion science, which is one problem I have with the social "sciences."

Until it can be scientifically proven that the social "sciences" are mostly rigorous, unbiased, and objective, I simply have no reason to believe they are, just like I have no reason to believe in magical sky daddies.

Re:Arts in Education (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 3 months ago | (#47833633)

While (correlation != causation) and all that, there really is a pretty extensive research base showing the benefits of music (and the arts in general) for students.

Most of the research out of the social sciences (and the poorly-designed tests they like to give) is absolute garbage; biased, not rigorous, and subjective. Unless they get their act together and produce more quality research like you'd see out of a field like physics, it can't be taken seriously.

No claims of vague, subjective benefits will change any of this.

I've never posted before on a story that I submitted, but in this particular case I think I should clarify some background -- I was trying not to make the submission too long, so the last link is to a longer article that reviews important research, but I know that's too much to ask for people to read that....

Anyhow, I myself was very skeptical of this study when I heard of it earlier this week, but I looked into it more. Here are some useful things to know (again, much of this is summarized in some of the links):

(1) It is well-established that adult professional musicians and people with significant musical training have really different brains from most of the "normal" population. I believe this is almost a unique pattern among professions. There are literally hundreds of studies which have shown this, and it's very common to exclude musicians or those with musical training from brain studies about music (and sometimes even from studies about related fields dealing with auditory cognition, like language), because neuroscientists and cognition specialists have found that musicians' brains are wired very differently. Musicians are generally segregated and studied in separate studies, because whatever music training does -- it does something VERY noticeable. That claim has been known for decades and is NOT under dispute.

(2) This present study found similar markers in similar aspects of brain function which were ambiguous after one year of music training, but clear after two years of training. These suggest that the adaptations observed in adult professional musicians and those with extensive musical training begin relatively quickly.

(3) The areas of the brain and the type of functions altered here are known to be correlated with things like better sound and language processing as well in "normal" (non-musician) brains.

(4) Students who were participating in the study, had music training, and showed these brain changes, also demonstrate improvement in school. Students who were chosen as a matching "control" in terms of their other backgrounds and abilities (but did NOT have the music training), did not have the observed brain changes, nor did they see the academic benefits. It's not enough to eliminate all confounding variables, but it's a start.

I still wouldn't say this is strong, hard "proof" of anything like you might get in a physics experiment. But it's a LOT better than what you get in most social science research, which (I agree with AC) is often "garbage." Musicians' brains are a pretty unique dataset, and when we can match what may be happening with these kids to known alterations that are found in those who have had extensive musical training (and alterations known to affect language processing), it's the first step toward eliminating that dreaded "correlation != causation" problem. And the last link to the Atlantic article mentions a few other similar long-term studies that are ongoing which also show similar trends in preliminary results.

Lastly, just to clarify why so many things are about "at-risk" students. IF this research pans out, and IF these effects are real, the kids at schools in low-income areas are least likely to have access to this sort of music training, because those schools are most likely to have eliminated all arts and "superfluous" activities to streamline the curriculum and focus on direct reading and math instruction. Kids at better schools are likely to already have access to such music resources, and IF this study's results are significant, reconsidering these policies for low-income schools may be one step (certainly not the only one) toward parity with better schools.

This may or may not turn out to be important research, but I wouldn't have paid much attention (nor would I have submitted here) if all it was based on was the abstract of this one study.

Re:Arts in Education (1)

Tokah (859694) | about 3 months ago | (#47833869)

Thank you for the submission! I have an audio processing disorder, and it is cool to learn that I may have my piano and choir teachers to thank for becoming so functional despite it.

Re:Arts in Education (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 3 months ago | (#47834801)

I'm not surprised at all that a musician has better sound and language processing skills because that is part of the study of music, I took two years of sight singing and ear training in college and many of the techniques we studied I also learned in junior high and high school music courses.

There are other important factors to music being taught in schools aside from the dedication and perseverance required there is also instant gratification. Students study math all year, there are mid-term and final test but unlike music those don't end with our piers and their parents cheering. At no point did my mother ever overhear me finishing some math problems and tell me it was beautiful, amazing, or wonderful. This makes music is great subject to get a kid hooked on learning.

Science is a fairly good one too if the school actually allows the student to do experiments and not just read about them.

STEM =! Convergent Thinking (1, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 3 months ago | (#47832897)

We've bought into the myth that all you need to succeed in STEM fields is convergent thinking

Don't use the "we" when it was you who thought so

STEM was never, is never, and will never be a product of "convergent thinking"

And I have a problem with your description of art being the source of "divergent thinking"

Take the so-called "art" that we have, for example - Music ... these days you listen to one song you listen to all songs --- all of them sound so similar as everybody tries to sound like everybody else --- the beats, the rhythm, who the fuck cares anymore who sings what since they all sound just so much alike

Creativity ? Where IS creativity nowadays ?

Certainly not in the art field --- When a guy put a crucifix into a container filled with urine that guy instantly becomes an "artist" and his "crucifix in urine" was described as "creative", I dunno about you, but "creativity" sure ain't the right adjective to use in this case

Re:STEM =! Convergent Thinking (2)

mean pun (717227) | about 3 months ago | (#47833287)

Nobody forces you to listen to only the most recent one-hit wonders. There is now more than 50 years of good-quality recordings of popular music to choose from, and then there are the vast worlds of latin-american music, world music, and classical music. And with services like Spotify they are more accessible than ever.

I admit that seeing good visual art in person is a bit more difficult, especially in some cultural wastelands, but things are no worse than in earlier decades, and there are more good reproductions available online than ever before. Just one good example: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/... [rijksmuseum.nl] .

Art has always been like that: 90% of the output is garbage, 9% is pretty good, and perhaps 1% is beyond that. Don't obsess about that 99%, in a few years it will be forgotten. Enjoy the 1%.

Re:STEM =! Convergent Thinking (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 3 months ago | (#47842469)

>STEM was never, is never, and will never be a product of "convergent thinking"

Which is what I said, if you go back and re-parse my sentence.

>And I have a problem with your description of art being the source of "divergent thinking"

I never said it was, merely that art *trains* divergent thinking.

>Take the so-called "art" that we have, for example - Music ... these days you listen to one song you listen to all songs --- all of them sound so similar as everybody tries to sound like everybody else --- the beats, the rhythm, who the fuck cares anymore who sings what since they all sound just so much alike

We're not talking about listening to the radio, but art classes in school. Art classes are about the creation of new art, or sometimes the active critique of existing art, but is never the passive garbage you claim it is.

Re:Arts in Education (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 3 months ago | (#47832945)

If that's the case then Artists need to change their tune, fast. All I ever hear from them is how they hate the rest of society and how we disgust them. Is it any wonder that we've figured this out and nobody bothers with the arts any more?

Re:Arts in Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47833103)

Students who are "Masters of STEM" in K-12 often run into trouble when they realize the world isn't full of convenient lists from which we have to pick the right answer.

Still struggling to copy with non-list activities, like dating and smalltalk because I was trained to be a process-implementing, answer-selecting monkey. The "less smart" kids I went to school with are much better in social areas than I'll ever be. What I am is a software developer/computer engineer who stretches himself to cover the equivalent of 4-6 positions (because that's how these come). Thanks world. Great job...

Arts in Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47834047)

Think about the job of the guy who has to build a bridge over a river. He isn't handed a list of four bridges, conveniently labelled A through D, and has to pick between them.

Actually, in certain - increasingly common - regulatory environments, this is exactly what happens.

Big "iconic" bridges like Brooklyn, Golden Gate, Sunshine Skyway - o.k. sure, those are artistic projects - but the vast majority of the I-20 (and similar) river crossings are handled with one of a few basic, proven construction techniques, and any highway engineer who wants to get his next career promotion on-schedule is much more likely to do that by saying "Build the MM 293 bridge with pattern C construction, like the bridges at MM 287 and 245, which are situated on similar soil types and elevation profiles and have proven to be trouble free. Do not opt for types A, or D construction because these have had problems X, Y, Z in service in similar areas."

It's not just bridges, any "commodity" industry that has a lot of historical data is reduced to copycat best practices, vs. "bold, innovative, risk taking ideas." Occasionally, somebody has a desire to make a statement, break new ground, try something different - but the majority of the world operates under actuarial tables that require data from similar endeavors before giving approval to proceed.

Having said all that - all copy and no think makes Jack a dull boy, and I'd rather not be a dull boy, so I try to color outside the lines whenever given the opportunity. But it certainly is easier to keep your head down and follow the herd.

Re:Arts in Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47834103)

when one looks at the slashdot headline crawl, right below this story is the story lamenting lack of creativity in scientists.
without art education, there is no creativity.

we have the education system that right wing sociopaths have designed hoping to kill the spirit and soul of all the lower and middle classes. and the easiest way to do ithat is to kill art and creativity.

Re:Arts in Education (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 3 months ago | (#47834369)

While (correlation != causation) and all that

Well when I see things like this I can't help but think that they are missing a few obvious things.

Since 2008, over 90 percent of high school seniors who participated in Harmony Project's free music lessons went on to college, even though the high school dropout rates in the surrounding Los Angeles areas can reach up to 50 percent.

Harmony project is a voluntary extra curricular activity that looks good on a college application.

Playing an instrument takes a lot of time, study, and dedication those who are likely to drop out would probably not participate in the Harmony project.

Re:Arts in Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47836779)

Well when I see things like this I can't help but think that they are missing a few obvious things.

Since 2008, over 90 percent of high school seniors who participated in Harmony Project's free music lessons went on to college, even though the high school dropout rates in the surrounding Los Angeles areas can reach up to 50 percent.

Harmony project is a voluntary extra curricular activity that looks good on a college application.

Hmm, yes, well... you might be right. The study authors might be complete idiots and didn't think to try to control for any of this.

Hey -- I have an idea, let's read the abstract which is in the first link in TFS:

We used a randomized control design to investigate whether community music participation induces a tangible change in auditory processing. ... Children who completed 2 years of music training had a stronger neurophysiological distinction of stop consonants, a neural mechanism linked to reading and language skills.

Hmm, "randomized" design with a "control" group. Sounds like they might have at least TRIED to look at the issue you mention.

But, oh well, that would actually require reading something rather than just critiquing a scientific study based on one non-scientific claim quoted in TFS. Great methdology you have there for your research, professor!

Almost (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 3 months ago | (#47834559)

First, lets remove the term STEM from the conversation as that is a classification of graduate, not a classification for Education System.

Education systems are the real problem, or at least what we are using as an education system. Your statement regarding a lack of convergent thinking is real problem, and is a direct result of our current education system. Our current system is based on the Prussian education system. This system was designed with the purpose of making soldiers smart enough to calculate and fire artillery, but not smart enough to question authority. Beat math into the persons head, but ignore Philosophy (ethics, morality, critical thinking). This system has been refined further and further since the US started pushing this as the education method in the 1930s (in fairness the biggest transitions started in the 40s).

When we moved to the Prussian system, we dumped the Classical education system. The "Classical" education system was improved over thousands of years. The curriculum was updated as we made progress, Alchemy being replaced by Chemistry for example. The focus of this system was to start with the foundation of critical thought and basic concepts. Rhetoric was taught at a very young age which encouraged dialogue and debate, along with basic math and language (reading/writing/spelling, etc...) Students took classes which advanced in a logical progression. If you teach someone Algebra at the same time as Physics, Algebra makes more sense. Teach someone music, and I mean actually teach them how the wave forms behave, and Trig makes more sense (music is the topic). Teaching ethics and morality at the same time as history provides the means to better evaluate future decisions.

Further, we have some good science backing how music directly impacts our thoughts. Certain sounds, patterns, and rhythms can cause the brain to produce chemicals that can enhance learning, or increase aggression, etc.. Teaching this along with music would certainly be of benefit to students.

So yea, music needs to be added back into schools. Our education system should be fully evaluated and revamped. Many teachers try and teach critical thought, so the problems we see are not related necessarily to teachers. Making teachers and students cram constantly for the next test has impacted even the best teachers. Teachers are evaluated on how well their students take the government mandated tests, not how well they can actually teach students.

Some terms to study outside of "Classical education" and "Prussian education" are the Trivium and Quadrivium.

Re:Arts in Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47835887)

Music and arts are only part of the answer. The rest is to not teach any academic subject until age 16, when the person's brain has matured.

Around the world, adult literacy programs require about 2 weeks in a classroom to prepare a student to continue their education on their own using books.

Using books, those students can continue to college in 2 years, given time and motivation.

So why are we causing 50% dropouts via concentration on academics earlier than 16 years of age? Better focus on building good brains and happy students, as nothing is gained by all of the time and expense trying to teach academics earlier than 16.

In other words... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47832807)

Let's continue wasting a ton of public education money pretending that if we spend enough we'll eventually get the niggers to perform as well as everyone else. Because it's worked so well for the last 60 years.

Selection Bias (1)

swamp_ig (466489) | about 3 months ago | (#47832861)

So the kids that were dedicated enough to do two years of music training went on to university did they?

Who would have thought?

... and /. editors believe in this shit ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47832915)

The problem does not rest on that so-called "study" alone

Slashdot editors also must shoulder part of the blame

Instead of posting submissions that carry weight they publish submits which got nothing to do with REAL SCIENCE nor technology

Re:Selection Bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47832987)

It's a randomized trial. I'm sure they keep track of the dropout rate.

Re:Selection Bias (2)

dywolf (2673597) | about 3 months ago | (#47833427)

and maybe the music is what gave them that dedication by giving them something to excite them, a goal to work towards.
my wife is a music teacher. she sees it quite regularly when a kid who was otherwise disinterested in learning, disruptive, etc, finds that passion in music. and once learned, applies it to the rest of his education.

dedication isnt an inherent quality that can be screened for so that only those who pass the test at birth can routed to a college track, and the rest routed to wage slavery. its something that is learned, and the potential exists for any child to discover it in any class, and its one of the msot fundamentally rewarding parts of being a teacher.

What does "at risk" mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47832925)

Is it the same as the misuse of the word 'vulnerable' to describe criminals who happen to be under 18?

Don't forget the code words ... (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 3 months ago | (#47833023)

You know, they do have a ton of code words that they throw around a lot, something like

"At risk"

"Underprivileged"

"[insert noun] - challenged"

"Vulnerable"
 
... and so on

Re:Don't forget the code words ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47834823)

"Black or Hispanic"

Known For 50 Years (3, Interesting)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 3 months ago | (#47833041)

The fact that school bands create much better students has been well understood for many decades. That doesn't mean that our screw ball society has done anything with that information. First music breaks up boredom. Apparently having something to do stops a lot of drug use and other crimes in general. Then a school band relies upon cooperation. Obviously a band will not sound very good with a lot of kids out of tune or playing the wrong note so every band member has a serious incentive to help every other member. Basic behaviors are also taught. Showing up on time with your instrument, your music and your complete uniform are all part of school band programs. And if you look at playing an instrument as a very competitive action things become even more obvious. What other form of performance in which competition takes place also completely avoids violence? Football, soccer and even track events all involve pain and certain forms of violence. For minority groups the individuals become valued for their ability and performance. The white student can highly value and respect the brown black, red or yellow student who stands out for excellence. There is no student that could not help themselves through being in a rigorous band and concert group all the way from 3rd. grade through college. Then we have a world dynamic as well. If Americans are illiterate for math, science and the arts they are even more in worse shape with their knowledge of music. Ask your next door neighbor why Chopin is so highly respected and there is a 99% probability that all you will get is duh. That leads to a life long lock down on the ability to associate with truly educates people. So our dullard students are left with a life of drinking beer and getting into all kinds of negative lives with high mortality rates.

Re:Known For 50 Years (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 3 months ago | (#47834815)

Ignoring all of that, giving kids a group they can belong to in school means they are less likely to seek one outside of school.

The at-risk kids will have a better chance at belonging with more opportunities.

That makes sense, and doesnt require people to buy in to the benefits of particular programs. Well known does not mean widely accepted, or we would not be having this conversation.

Re:Known For 50 Years (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 3 months ago | (#47835105)

Apparently having something to do stops a lot of drug use and other crimes in general.

Quite true - when I was in high school, I had music lessons or rehearsals twice a day every day of the week. I had time for school, music, and sleep. I even stopped watching television at some point, never to resume. Unfortunately I ended up suffering from music burnout by the time I went to college, which is why I'm not an opera singer or a professional trumpet player today.

Re:Known For 50 Years (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | about 3 months ago | (#47840027)

Unfortunately though, I can report that among professional musicians, drugs (legal or not) are an occupational hazard. I know it's far from the only profession where this is the case, but keeping out of trouble in school does not always correlate to keeping out of the same kind of trouble afterward.

Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationwide (1)

mi (197448) | about 3 months ago | (#47833241)

This very site used to see arguments against Microsoft's Windows — and one of the potent ones was that a "monoculture" is dangerous because, should a flaw appear in it, the entire field can be lost at once.

The "recent" discovery [slashdot.org] , that fat is not nearly as bad for you as the sugars put into "fat free" products to make them edible, shows, how the similar effect can happen, when the government decides, what's best for all of us: the science is declared "settled" and "guidelines" (backed by the carrots of subsidies and sticks of fund-withdrawals) start touting the new best method.

The field of pedagogy is just as unsettled as that of dieting advice or economics. Maybe, local (private or public alike) schools ought to decide, what and how to teach? With some music or with more math instead? With essays or with puzzles or with multiple-choice tests... That way, at least some of them are going to get it right and, maybe, even show others how to do it.

Now, we know, that teachers dislike the standardized exams imposed by the Federal law(s). Sorry, no dice — the exams must be standardized, otherwise the results of the different approaches used by different schools can never be meaningfully compared.

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | about 3 months ago | (#47833555)

The requirements are standard. The actual manner of teaching is not. Education standards are about what to teach, not how to teach.

You might find recommendations on how to teach, but they are not enforced as requirements. Find me an example of enforced methods of teaching, rather than curricula (which is just a laundry list of what needs to be taught, not how).
=Smidge=

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

mi (197448) | about 3 months ago | (#47833695)

You might find recommendations on how to teach, but they are not enforced as requirements.

Distinction with no (or little) difference. The giant Federal Department of Education is paid for by our tax-dollars ($70bln per year [ed.gov] give or take). If it issues "recommendations", they are either followed or are rejected necessitating local replacements (paid for by more tax-dollars).

The argument that a citizen (or a local government) are free to reject the (higher) government's "free" help is bogus, because we aren't free to refuse paying for it, whether we use it or not.

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

matbury (3458347) | about 3 months ago | (#47838395)

However, how we test dictates how we teach. You can give students a liberal arts education in the classroom but if the tests are CCSS, there's little or no incentive for them to participate in class. In effect, the tests directly inform students what's expected of them in class. If they can fool around and misbehave in class and then just cram a few hours/days/weeks before a big test and still get good grades, guess what'll tend to happen? For more info, look up John Biggs' SOLO taxonomy and the idea of Constructive Alignment.

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 months ago | (#47834161)

>Now, we know, that teachers dislike the standardized exams imposed by the Federal law(s). Sorry, no dice â" the exams must be standardized, otherwise the results of the different approaches used by different schools can never be meaningfully compared.

You're assuming too much:
1) That exams do not do so much harm to the educational process as to undo any good you see in them (which when we look at the actual patterns of behaviour that emerge seems to be highly unlikely).
2) That comparing schools is both a necessary and a good thing to do.

The two countries with the best education outcomes in the world today: Finnland and South Korea both had some of the worst 5 decades ago - interestingly their systems by which they turned this around are almost polar opposites in every regard.
Yet there is a few things they have in common:
1) *EVERY* school is a good school, nobody is allowed (in the broadest possible sense of the term - which would include everybody from teachers, the local community right up to the minister of education) to run a bad one - they don't have to compare schools to see which one is better - since they are all excellent.
2) Teachers are highly valued and extremely well paid. This is actually a criteria for 1 to be achieved, you can't have good teachers unless really smart and talented people with the ability to follow any career they want - can actually make a decent living as teachers.
Finnland approached it by closing 80% of their teacher colleges in the 1970's and only accepting the top 10% of applicants - making teaching one of the hardest courses to get into in a Finnish tertiary education. Those who do are among the best of the best of their generation - and THAT is who you want preparing the next one !
And it doesn't end with a diploma, Finnish schoolteachers spend less than 300 hours a year actually teaching - nearly all the rest are spent LEARNING - various forms of professional development that they are expected to engage in increasing their skillset continuously throughout their careers.

That is ultimately the difference between a good or a bad school system - how many of the smartest people it produces go back to work in it.

The saying goes that those who can't - teach.
That's a guaranteed way to create a really, really bad education system.
If you want a good one - there is a very simple cure: pay teachers extremely well, and then make it very hard to become one, so that those who teach are not just who CAN - but those who can EXCEPTIONALLY WELL.

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

mi (197448) | about 3 months ago | (#47835049)

You're assuming too much:

  1. That exams do not do so much harm to the educational process as to undo any good you see in them (which when we look at the actual patterns of behaviour that emerge seems to be highly unlikely).
  2. That comparing schools is both a necessary and a good thing to do.

....

The two countries with the best education outcomes in the world today

And how do we know that? Without exams of some sort?

they don't have to compare schools to see which one is better - since they are all excellent.

Sure. And I too am an excellent singer — so long as you don't compare me with anyone else.

That is ultimately the difference between a good or a bad school system - how many of the smartest people it produces go back to work in it.

That "difference" seems rather self-serving. The purpose of a school system is not produce good teachers. It is to prepare students for all pursuits they may choose — not just teaching.

I still don't understand, how you would know, your education is particularly good without some means to compare the results...

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 months ago | (#47835667)

>And how do we know that? Without exams of some sort?

You can see how they perform in life maybe ?
You do know that the even the most struggling students in Finnland graduated trilingual right ?

>Sure. And I too am an excellent singer â" so long as you don't compare me with anyone else.

Comparing people and comparing schools are not analogous. The latter is a system - and there is absolutely no logical reason why all of them can't be as good as the best one is now or better.

>That "difference" seems rather self-serving. The purpose of a school system is not produce good teachers. It is to prepare students for all pursuits they may choose â" not just teaching.

That's an idiotic way to read it. The point is that if the best of the best are CHOOSING to become teachers then EVERYBODY gets the best education they can -regardless of what THEY choose to do.
Even Linus Torvalds did a stint teaching !

>I still don't understand, how you would know, your education is particularly good without some means to compare the results...

Of all the ways to measure a students abilities, exams are just about the LEAST accurate.

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

mi (197448) | about 3 months ago | (#47835945)

You can see how they perform in life maybe?

No, I don't know a single Finn or Korean. And even if I did, one person's circle of acquaintances is not sufficient to make meaningful conclusions about the quality of school system in any of their countries.

You do know that the even the most struggling students in Finland graduated trilingual right?

Big deal. I graduated trilingual too (Ukrainian, Russian, English) — and most of Europe does, I guess, out of necessity. I don't know, how well they write (in any language) or whether all the graduates can solve a quadratic equation. If you have any evidence, that Finns (or South Koreans) are, indeed, the best educated in the world, you should've offered citations two posts ago...

That's an idiotic way to read it.

I apologize. Because there could not possibly have been anything wrong with how you wrote it, all of the idiocy must be on the reader's side...

The point is that if the best of the best are CHOOSING to become teachers then EVERYBODY gets the best education

That "point" of yours is rather dubious. In fact, I think, it is not true at all. Being a master of something and being able to teach it to others are two very different things...

Even Linus Torvalds did a stint teaching !

Great example! Were you going to add, that Linus quit teaching, when he discovered a better programmer and OS-designer teaching in a classroom next door?

Of all the ways to measure a students abilities, exams are just about the LEAST accurate.

That was a great opportunity to list some MORE accurate alternatives, but you missed it. Likely, because none exist.

Thanks for playing.

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 months ago | (#47843581)

>No, I don't know a single Finn or Korean. And even if I did, one person's circle of acquaintances is not sufficient to make meaningful conclusions about the quality of school system in any of their countries

Are you allergic to thinking ? Nobody suggested that. Luckily we have these things called science and statistics which work well together and lots scientists and statisticians who make detailed studies of education - including how it compares around the world and what does and doesn't work well. We also have huge organisations like UNICEF which funds international studies of this nature. We don't have to GUESS who have the best school systems - we have FACTS.
Among the things these scientists compare is - how many students manage to get in to high quality tertiary education (what Americans would call Ivy League schools) - and how they perform there (the first year drop-out rate is one of the best measurements of the pre-university school system).

>Big deal. I graduated trilingual too (Ukrainian, Russian, English) â" and most of Europe does, I guess, out of necessity. I don't know, how well they write (in any language) or whether all the graduates can solve a quadratic equation. If you have any evidence, that Finns (or South Koreans) are, indeed, the best educated in the world, you should've offered citations two posts ago...

We were comparing with America, not Europe where multilingualism is common. As for citations - google -it this is an EXTREMELY well studied field and there is very high consensus because there is such a massive abundances of ways to measure outcomes and they have little to no dissagreement. I gave one example above, another would be the likelihood of somebody to find work straight out of high-school compared to a drop-out. The number of people who manage to get PHDs is another.

>That was a great opportunity to list some MORE accurate alternatives, but you missed it. Likely, because none exist.

No, because I didn't realize I was talking to a person with absolutely no knowledge of the subject he is making such absolute statements about...
Well - one example of a MUCH more accurate measurement is through continuous grading via projects and assignments.
Exams barely, if at all, reflect actual skills in a subject - they reflect skill at passing exams and these skills rarely correlate.
Exams create disrupted educational incentives causing teachers to teach "to the exam", students to study "to the exam" and NOBODY to actually LEARN anything - not to mention as Stevin Levitt so conclusively proofed standardized testing GUARANTEES the highest degrees of teaching and corruption of any form of student assessment.

There are many, many educational systems without exams - even large universities like Harvard are moving away from them because the evidence of their complete lack of reliability is becoming too large to ignore.
People who think exams are the only, let alone a GOOD, way to measure ability are almost always people who went to school before anybody really studied this stuff - never really encountered any other ideas and think their experience is the only one that's possible - that BY ITSELF proves they had an inferior education.

The Waldorf education system (considered universally as one of the most comprehensive and highest quality education systems there is - found in the most expensive private schools around the world) for example is completely exam-less. In countries where matriculation requires a final government-mandated exam, their students still take those exams and outperforms those students who had, had exams throughout their school career - DESPITE not having been coached to exams every year since they had never HAD an exam before.
I have some personal issues with Waldorf (too much religion in there for my liking) but even so I can recognize that it's massively superior to the Prussian-style public school systems that still dominate most of the world DESPITE producing inferior outcomes everywhere it's used.

Exams were fine when the sole purpose of schools were to produce soldiers and factory workers. In an age where they need to produce people who think - not just people who obey orders (and what society needs is NOT just lots of really obedient people - but rather the exact opposite, lots of people who dislike and question authority) - they are worthless. You can't test critical thinking with an exam.

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 months ago | (#47843593)

Small correction:
standardized testing GUARANTEES the highest degrees of cheating (including teacher-assisted cheating) and corruption of any form of student assessment.

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47844269)

Maybe in some areas, but I think standardized testing still has it's merits. It's that standardized testing shouldn't be a means to withdraw funding from schools, but rather show that the individual schools need assistance somehow. And these tests should focus more on problem solving rather than just "robotic" answering. To put it another way, if it's a math test, maybe it shouldn't be dozens of problems to solve, but rather a few problems in which one must solve for the solution(s).

One thing that is missing from early math education would be axioms. Proofs. We need to deal with that early on rather than in high school/college.

Re:Maybe, we just should not do SAME thing nationw (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | about 3 months ago | (#47843611)

>Great example! Were you going to add, that Linus quit teaching, when he discovered a better programmer and OS-designer teaching in a classroom next door?

The scary thing is that you think that proves YOUR point when, in fact, it proves mine.

Who are the "AT-RISK" students? (-1, Troll)

mi (197448) | about 3 months ago | (#47833301)

A close relative of mine was declared "special" student (aka "short bus") and assigned to a "special" class. He was, indeed, "special" but he was not dumb. Unfortunately the school — in a perfectly wealthy (and highly Illiberal) town — treated all "special" students the same so, when he refused to do a dumb math classwork, the teacher sent his parents a note to the effect, that their son's development is slow and he, unfortunately, will never amount to much.

A few years later he entered MIT and, after graduating, proceeded to a PhD program (in Math) in one of the Ivy League colleges. He is still "special" socially, but he is a mathematical genius... His parents still have that dumb teacher's note.

which the researchers argue could help close achievement gaps between at-risk students and more affluent students

Ah, never mind. The "at-risk" was an euphemism for "poor". Sure... Never mind the single-parenthood [washingtonpost.com] — a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle — if only we had the money to play more music to these kids! The best we can expect, I suppose, from a University, that lists a couple of actual unabashed domestic terrorists [wikipedia.org] among professors [frontpagemag.com]one of them [wikipedia.org] in charge of "Children and Family Justice Center", whatever that is...

It's also the mentorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47833551)

While learning a difficult skill like reading/playing music builds confidence and certainly exercises the brain for the somewhat intelligent students (the dumb ones are terrible and annoy the whole class with their lack of learning ability), another overlooked benefit is the mentorship that the instructor provides. In high school, marching band (and later concert and jazz band) students spend a lot of time under the bandmaster and team's influence which means that if the instructor's good, he'll try to implant moral and life training at the same time he's teaching them music.

Of course! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47833605)

A big part of school is socialization and learning how to cooperate with other people. Most of the time teachers and administrators take this to mean students need to just do as they say and not give them any grief. Students learn to fake obedience along with their interest in anything they have to study. It's cynical and sad. BUT the very act of playing music in a group requires that students cooperate with the people around them not because an authority tells them to, but because beautiful sounds won't get created unless they do. Playing music in a group gives people feedback they can use to learn self-control, self-discipline, cooperation, and responsibility. It's much more effective than letters on a piece of paper handed out by hypocritical adult authority figures.

Isn't it weird how every other decade ... (1)

Qbertino (265505) | about 3 months ago | (#47834241)

... things that are basically common sense [ted.com] or at least have been for about a century [wikipedia.org] are 'discovered'?

Everything said here reads exactly like a bona fide copy of what alternative educational - i.e. non-mainstream one-dimensional eductation - methods have been preaching since the dawn of broad public schooling, right down to the insights into the development and function of the human brain. So diversity in education helps the brain and soul develop better? Wow, what an insight. ... No wonder our culture is in such a sad state.

STFU (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47835069)

Sit Down, Shut Up, and do your schoolwork or you're going to be "at risk" of getting you ass kicked out of this school. Once you finished your assignment, you can listen to music. That's the correlation I got when I was a kid.

Yes, but what will close the gap (1)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 3 months ago | (#47836345)

between at-risk students and more affluent students who take music lessons?

Re:Yes, but what will close the gap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47836833)

between at-risk students and more affluent students who take music lessons?

Good point, but TFA mentions that at-risk students are more likely to be in schools that don't offer opportunities for music lessons. So, the "gap" presumably will be less wide if we could at least offer some opportunities to these at-risk students that the affluent students already have.

No one said it would cure anything completely. But maybe the impetus in poorer schools to cut any programs that don't directly deal with reading and math and standardized tests is actually causing the gap to get BIGGER, and that's probably something we might want to fix.

Re:Yes, but what will close the gap (1)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 3 months ago | (#47838963)

Unfortunately the powers that be don't seem interested in fixing anything education-wise. A poorly educated population is easily manipulated and they like it that way.

One of the major parties in the US owes its continued existence to the fact that they have targeted every nut-job fringe group in the US that's willing to vote for someone based on single issues such as abortion, gun ownership, evolution, birth control, etc. Naturally, that same party wants to shut down the Dept of Education. The dumber people are, the more votes they'll get.

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