Guest passage:  the voice of a music teacher.  The tragedy when common core and standardized testing takes the joy of music away from students

I am pleased to post a passage submitted by an acclaimed music teacher and performer, Nathaniel C. Ashbaugh.  His submission, below, is one of the dozens of teacher passages included in the new 2nd edition of Lifting the Curtain:  The disgrace we call urban high school education.

His passage is important.  Perhaps the most visible, and in a way the most heartbreaking failure in education over the past few years, is the loss of music, arts, and electives in our schools.  Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche understood this 100 years ago:  “Without musiclife would be a mistake.”  Taylor Swift captured what music means to today’s youth:  People haven’t always been there for me, but music has.”  And I will never forget the role Mozart or Debussy had for me in the hard times of my youth – captured more eloquently by Maya Angelou than I could ever say:

Music was my refuge.  I could crawl into the space between the notes
and curl back to my loneliness.”

Thus, when music is pushed aside to free up the course period for standardized testing, or is gutted to make it include math content in the music course in order to boost math scores, our children lose something every bit as important as math or history.  When they lose the arts a critical part of their perspective on the world around them is taken away.  And when common core and standardized testing attempts to force the inherently qualitative music and arts into a quantitative box, we all lose.

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Nathaniel C. Ashbaugh is a music teacher and performer from New Mexico.  Ashbaugh’s passion for music and sharing it with children is clear.  He teaches elementary school music, and performs in the 44th Army Band.  He is uniquely qualified and expert to comment on the place of music education in today’s schools.


(Nathaniel C. Ashbaugh)  This quote from an administrator is embedded in my nightmares—“You are correct, but that’s not the way we do things here.” This was uttered in response to factual, research-based, data-driven statements made in support of students who wish to be involved in music class but are denied because of their test scores. The blame lies not on site administrators, but on the new “common-core standards.”

Whether the available time for the music course is usurped for test preparation classes, or the student is denied access to the music course due to low test scores, the child loses.

Common core is not the solution to the education deficiencies as perceived by its designers. Music, in its simplest, purest form, is the solution. It is a fact that learning music makes neurological pathways stronger, and develops these pathways where they previously did not exist.  It is a fact that music supports all other subjects that are valued so highly.

Yet, statements such as the one above are still made, in ignorance of that fact. “Common-Core Standards” mean music teachers are forced to make cumbersome attempts at making a “square peg fit in a round hole” by being forced to include math lessons and different focus points from testing deficiencies in their music lesson plans, visible to anyone every day, instead of teaching a subject that is already, and has been for centuries, common-core.

The problem with education is that these facts are ignored, and administrators need to refrain from taking students out of music.  After all, the fact is that music increases test scores and self-esteem all at the same time.  Common Core – please let us do it right and make music available to every child.

The 2nd edition of the acclaimed book about today’s failed education system
– Lifting the Curtain:  The disgrace we call urban high school education

is now available, with dozens of teacher submissions from across the USA and nine
new chapters.  Both KIRKUS and CLARION praise this important book
“…from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher”
that shows the real problems that have destroyed the education
of our children.  Please get a copy HERE or on Amazon.


This entry was posted in Charter Schools, Common core, Education, Education reform, High schools, homeschooling, Inclusion classes, Music and arts courses, Public Education, Standardized testing, Teachers, Teaching, Urban High Schools and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Guest passage:  the voice of a music teacher.  The tragedy when common core and standardized testing takes the joy of music away from students

  1. Cindy Estep says:

    Music is the education

    Sent from my iPhone



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