Friday, 14 January 2011

The value of music education

There's an article on the Guardian website today What's happening to the future of music education? about the future of music provision in the education system in the UK, amid concerns as to whether the government will cut provision in order to save money. Dr Peter Thompson of Sheffield University has commented with an example of the value of music provision, even for those who do not take up music as a profession. His comment is worth reproducing here in full (edited only to remove typing errors).

Back in the bad old days of the 1970s I was a pupil at Whitehawk County Secondary School in Brighton which was rated as one of the worst schools in Britain on one of the worst council estates. I got into serious trouble more or less constantly and did things which, if I were to have been caught would almost certainly have led to custodial sentences. Then I joined the school brass band which had free instruments, free tuition and provided an alternative outlet for me. I ended up joining the army as a junior bandsman and that trajectory was what got me an education and a purpose in life so that I am now a senior academic at a Russell Group university. I owe it all to the music opportunities I had at that school back when I was 11 when there was bugger all else on offer. Cutting music provision is not only a culturally philistine move but will also keep many children in the outer darkness of hopelessness.

Even if you describe this in purely economic terms, this is a staggeringly good investment. Thomson has been saved from a probable life of crime and hopelessness which would in all likelihood have been a substantial drain on the public purse, and instead is a respected academic who has made his own substantial contribution to society, in the taxes he has paid and in the contribution he has made to educating subsequent generations.

This is what music is about, this is what it can do for people.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post - look forward to reading the Guardian article. If music educators had more of an entrepreneurial bent, they might embrace technological advances and create programs that users of all ages might pay to access. Oh, wait, it has been done at

    If we STOP simply looking on as our programs are being cut or worse, continue to spew the 'music makes you smarter' routine...and get to work tapping new 'markets' OUTSIDE of academia, we might be able to pull the profession out of its doldrums. Let's take care of ourselves first before we continue to give away our services. Then, like doctors who donate their time and expertise a la 'care flights', we can go help those who will benefit most from access to music and all the promises it holds.