Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella songs are flipping through my head as I ponder the re-authorization of NCLB, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and more specifically music and the arts.
In my own little corner in my own little world I can be whatever I want to be. On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere and the world will open its arms to me.
On one hand, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) reminds me of this. It also sounds, however, suspiciously like its evil stepsister No Child Left Behind.
So let’s consider music in our public schools. With ECAA will the children sing again?
Cinderella is my favorite Broadway musical. I fell in love with the Julie Andrews’s version of this play as a child. I know every song by heart. My family will roll their eyes and attest to this.
But has Cinderella really arrived at the ball when it comes to ECAA? Will we see a revival of the marching bands in public high schools? Will elementary students get exposure to choir and musical instruments?
There’s certainly enough giddiness to get me excited. Here is National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García describing her enthusiasm for the passage of this bill.
But there was giddiness with NCLB too. Remember then Education Secretary Margaret Spelling chiming in to say it’s like “Ivory soap: It’s 99 percent pure or something,” No kidding. She said that about NCLB in talking about how it didn’t need to be changed.
The National Association for Music Education is thrilled that the new ECAA reauthorization has claimed music and the arts as core subjects. They say: By naming music and arts as core subjects in the Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate has acknowledged and begun to address the national problem of the narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than a decade now.
Really? I hate to tell them this, but No Child Left Behind listed the arts as a core subject too.
From the archives: No Child Left Behind defines “core academic subjects” to include English, reading or language arts, math, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography.
We all know about the terrible elimination of the arts in our public schools since NCLB.
Nina Shokraii Rees, a senior education policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation who helped develop NCLB, said this in 1999 when asked whether children should get the arts, even though it would eventually be listed as a core subject:
It depends. If a student is attending an affluent school that has the budget to invest in such things, then I see many benefits to adding art and music courses. What I object to is focusing the attention of poor school systems on these activities. Schools should be in the business of teaching students the basics. If they fail to teach students how to read and write, it makes no sense to ask them to offer music! In a perfect world, these are decisions that I wish parents could make and pay for.
Questions surrounding the new ECAA:
- How many public schools do you know that will suddenly find the money to support real certified music and art teachers?
- Will the local school district supporting charters and traditional public schools come through?
- Is music going to be seen by the education reformers as a subject that needs to be prioritized?
- Will they push all that Common Core stuff aside to sing?
- Most important, will states jump on the music bandwagon?
- Do we suddenly live in a more perfect world with ECAA?
- Will a fairy Godmother pass her wand over every inner city poor school, all public schools, and now provide everyone with an enriched arts program in place of test prep?
Public schools have been besieged the last 15 years (even before) with draconian testing that knocked the arts and music completely out of the curriculum. Will testing now really be pushed aside for a balanced curriculum that includes the arts?
Read in-between the lines. I’m afraid Cinderella is still stuck in her little corner dreaming.
But Feedly, Fadle Foodle don’t let me rain on everybody’s parade.
I really hope that I am wrong and the prince arrives soon with that glass slipper. Our kids deserve some music magic.
Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Julie Andrews 1957.