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Music Education Science

Music Training's Cognitive Benefits Could Help "At-Risk" Students 58

Posted by timothy
from the every-gambler-brews-delicious-framboise dept.
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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Music Training's Cognitive Benefits Could Help "At-Risk" Students

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  • Arts in Education (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Friday September 05, 2014 @02:36AM (#47832679) Homepage Journal

    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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > 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.

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        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, wit

      • 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

    • 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 jus

      • by mean pun (717227)

        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 reprodu

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >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 ---

    • 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.

    • 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

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

    Who would have thought?

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      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

  • Known For 50 Years (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Friday September 05, 2014 @04:53AM (#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.
    • 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.

    • 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.
    • by Mal-2 (675116)

      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.

  • 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 o

    • by Smidge204 (605297)

      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=

      • by mi (197448)

        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'

      • by matbury (3458347)

        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 Con

    • >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 b

      • by mi (197448)

        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.

        Su

        • >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" seem

          • by mi (197448)

            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 an

            • >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 a

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

            • >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.

  • ... 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

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

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