Advocacy for K-12 Arts Education
College of Music promotes vital role of music education in public schools.
While state and federal policies continue to affect the delivery of music education in public schools, educators and students within the MSU College of Music continue to advocate for the value of music in K-12 education.
Among those is Mitch Robinson.
The MSU associate professor and chair of music education has granted interviews, written papers, edited educational policy journals, coordinated statewide conferences, and participated in advocacy groups to address the detrimental effects of minimizing music and arts education in public schools.
“The purpose of education is to become more fully human,” says Robinson. “It’s dependent on the complex relationship among teachers and students and among students themselves.”
Access to a full curriculum that broadens the current emphasis of lessons in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to STEAM (with the A being arts) is vital for students in all districts, Robinson says. So, too, is ensuring that teaching is engaging, well planned and constructed, and more than simply a transfer of information.
“If it weren’t for advocacy, we may not have any music or arts in our schools as of late,” says Casandra Ulbrich, vice president of the State Board of Education. “Given the budget situation for schools and lots of the policies from state and federal government, there is a real push and high focus toward math, reading, and English. Sometimes that happens at the exclusion of humanities.”
Cynthia Taggart, a professor of music education at MSU, says that music and music education provide a means for students to express themselves and to think in different ways.
“It’s our job as educators to educate the whole child—not just parts,” says Taggart. “Students need to have an opportunity to express things and create in ways that don’t necessarily have right and wrong answers. Music does that in ways that other subjects don’t.”
Taggart and Robinson are among a core group statewide that coordinate conferences, seminars, and summits that bring together teachers and administrators, state lawmakers, and community members to discuss key issues related to educational policy and arts education. Other initiatives include working with local and state art councils to ensure children throughout Michigan schools are receiving instruction from specialists and teachers with music training.
“Education is our number one form of cultural enrichment,” says state Rep. Adam Zemke who served as a panelist at MSU’s recent Music Education Policy Summit. “A well-rounded education, including attention to music and the arts, is not only an investment in our children’s futures, it’s an investment in all of ours.”