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The Purpose of Education

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The Editors Pages...What is the purpose of education if not to teach us how to use our brains?

What is the purpose of an education if not to teach us how to use our brain so that we can think? It seems that nowadays, our decision makers propose, more often than not, that the education purpose of teaching our kids reading, writing and math is to teach them how to think and to function as literate, empowered citizens. It all sounds so plausible and reasonable. So at the risk of sounding facetious I ask, why isn't it working?


The conventional wisdom and trend in pre-college education these days is to emphasis the importance of these "primary skills" at the expense of the arts and humanities. Some argue; what is the education purpose of learning how to play music or drawing or painting when our kids cannot even read or write?

Missing The Forest For The Trees

Music studies are an especially convenient target for the politicians and bureaucrats who argue that it has no purpose in our kids primary education. They are eager to "fix" our educational system, demonstrate their competency and to balance their budgets. Their arguments appear to convince some, at least on the surface.

As well intentioned as they may be, our education decision makers are totally "missing the forest for the trees" when it comes to what are in the best interests of our children. Why? There is a key fact that they are all missing, that no one talks about or even recognizes.

Music Trumps Reading, Writing and Math

On a developmental and a human level, music and art trumps reading, writing and mathematics. We now know that human kind started building crude musical instruments as early as 65,000 years ago. That is when music began. When did writing, reading and math begin? About 9,000 years ago. So what is the significance of this chronological comparison anyway?

If you compare the development of our species to the development of a child, this says that music is an earlier and more fundamental piece of our humanity. Historically speaking, a sizable chunk of our very early math and scientific efforts were pitted towards comprehending and understanding nature.

In turn, our ancestors worked to translate their new found understanding of natures sounds into primitive tonal systems (now known as modes and scales) and the making of crude musical instruments long before he thought much at all about the importance of adding and subtracting. And over time, as music evolved, musicians wanted to remember, record, to read and write their music and "notes." In the process, all the "primary skills" were accomplished naturally and spiritually.

At present we live in an era of entitlement where all this hard work and innovation has been granted to us. As a result we have become confused and lazy. They ask "why can't our kids read, write and add and subtract?" The answer is NOT to focus simply on augmenting our tired old methods of focusing on the "primary skills."

Reinstate Music As A Core Element For Our Kids Education

Notwithstanding our many varying beliefs about the purpose of education, the answer nevertheless is to reinstall music as a core element for our kid's primary education.

Listen to quality music. Learn how to play an instrument. Turn music into a science and math project. Think about new sounds, tonal systems. Dream about new kinds of instruments that can make these new sounds. Figure out a way to build them and innovate anew.

So if I were an education decision maker, I would seriously reconsider the education purpose of music to be a key part for our kids education. The beauty and profundity of music is that at the root of it all, music draws from a deep human need to understand nature, the world and

A Discussion On How Music Can Serve As The Foundation Of An Education.


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himself. And in doing so, we continue to draw from the roots and beginnings of reading, writing and math, just as we did from the very beginning.

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