Tag Archives: Ken Robinson

The Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind

The well-intended implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act has resulted in increased emphasis on standardized testing in our schools and fewer resources available for subjects other than reading and math (including music and the arts). The Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind is holding a hearing in New Orleans today to discuss education standards, data, reform. etc.

My comments submitted for the record are noted below. You can provide written comments for the public record via e-mail. Click here for more info.

April 5, 2010

The Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind
Tulane University
Lavin Bernick Center, Kendall Cram Room (#213)
New Orleans, LA
April 5th, 2010
1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. CST

Working Together for Student Success: Accountability, Data, and High Standards

COMMENTOR NAME: Craig M. Cortello

AFFILIATION: Music Education Advocacy author and speaker. Author of Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music (La Dolce Vita Publishing, 2009). A 20 year veteran of engineering, consulting, and manufacturing industries and a 30 year guitarist/pianist/songwriter. Contributing music writer to Where Y’at magazine in New Orleans and AllAboutJazz.com. Business articles have appeared in Convention Forum, Industrial Engineer, and Executive IdeaLink magazines.

RE: Music Education & No Child Left Behind

From the perspective of the arts community, No Child Left Behind was seen as a significant victory, in the sense that it recognized “Arts” as a core academic subject. As is often the case, there seems to be a disconnect between what has been written into law and what is in fact reality.

According to a series of reports by the Center on Education Policy that tracks the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (which became law in 2002) entitled From the Capital to the Classroom, 62 percent of elementary school districts reported increasing time for English and/or math since the 2001-02 school year by an average increase of 42 percent. At the same time, 44 percent of elementary school districts reported cutting time from one or more other subjects including science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch, and recess by an average of about 30 minutes per day.

“What gets tested gets taught,” said Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and CEO. “Because so much is riding on reading and math, included on state tests, many schools have cut back time on other important areas, which means that some students are not receiving a broad curriculum.”

The report also notes that these changes are more prevalent in districts that are home to struggling schools. One recommendation from the report is to “include measures of knowledge and skills in art and music as one of the multiple measures used for NCLB accountability.”

Over a period of 2 years, I conducted interviews with 32 CEOs and business leaders who played music as a child or adolescent and view that experience as a defining one in preparing them for success. The compilation of those interviews and profiles became the primary content of my book entitled Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, published in September of 2009, a copy of which I have submitted for the record.

One of the questions that I asked of all of the research participants was this, “Based on your experience with music, if a school principal or administrator came to you and asked for 2 or 3 talking points that would be compelling in justifying funding to keep a music education program intact, what would you say.”

Consistently, the answer to that question was some variation of the following:

“Music kept me engaged in the school experience where I might have become disenchanted with the experience otherwise.”
“I kept up with my studies to fulfill an obligation so that I could play in the marching band.”
“I didn’t feel part of the mainstream, but music became my identity.”
“I knew I had talent, but I don’t respond well to traditional assessment methods. Music validated that belief for me.”

And therein lies the irony. In short, music education IS a no child left behind program. It keeps children that don’t necessarily shine according to traditional metrics of student performance involved in school.

Sometimes tutoring and remedial course offerings are not enough to keep children on the bus. We need to find a motivating reason for them to want to come along for the ride.

It does seem to me that the very well-intended accountability motives that have driven the demand for standardized testing have led us to a more narrow approach to education. These changes come in an era when the workforce is demanding more well-rounded, diversified individuals possessing artistic sensitivities, as expressed very articulately by authors such as Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, Ned Herrmann, and John Kao.

Creativity is just one of 9 common lessons that we identified from music education that translate into business success, FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM so to speak. One common theme in most all research on the topic of creativity is the concept that creativity is like a muscle. The capacity for creative thought will either strengthen with use or wither with inactivity. We must engage in creative activities in order to develop that capacity.

My concern – Where will our children have the opportunity to strengthen their “creativity muscles” without music and arts education in our schools?

In closing, I would like to simply say that until we recognize that music and the arts are as essential as reading and math in preparing our students for the 21st century workplace, any perceived improvements through the implementation of accountability measures are hollow victories. Our ability to meet performance metrics is meaningless if those metrics are not a true measure of the needs of our students.

James Carlini is an international business infrastructure and technology consultant and a former distinguished teaching award recipient at Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Education. He advocates a movement away from the 3 R’s of education that were appropriate for the industrial age toward what he refers to as the F-A-C-T approach toward education – that is, a focus on Flexibility, Adaptability, Creativity, and Technology as the necessary cornerstones of a post-information age education. And music and the arts should play an integral role in that migration.

I ask you to reverse this disturbing trend of diminishing resources for music and the arts.

Musically inspired,

LA DOLCE VITA ENTERPRISES, LLC

Craig M. Cortello

The “Business Musician”
President

P.O. Box 746
Metairie, LA 70004-0746

Cell: (504) 481-6105
ccortello@ldv-enterprises.com

Sir Ken Robinson on Creativity in Education

One of the common benefits of music education that I found in conducting the research for my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music was its value in developing creativity that transcends into all of ones endeavors. Creativity is like a muscle – it will either strengthen with use or wither with inactivity. My greatest concern – where will our children exercise their creativity “muscles” without music and arts education in our schools.

Here’s what Sir Ken Robinson has to say about the importance of creativity:
“I believe passionately that creativity is as important now as literacy and we should be promoting it with the same seriousness, but schools do not promote creativity routinely.”

To watch Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation on creativity and education, click here.

To listen to CEOs and business leaders discussing the role of music education in shaping their careers and facilitating their success, click here.

Why Music Education Continues to Lose the Funding Battle

Do you believe in art for art’s sake? Me too. Music and the arts help us connect as humans and share common emotions. They can be a conduit for social change. They inspire us to see the best in ourselves, and achieve our own potential. No argument here.

Here’s the problem – those who are tasked with prioritizing education funding believe in art for art’s sake as well – they just don’t always believe it’s a function that the education system should be subsidizing, at least when push comes to shove in difficult economic times.

We should be able to justify arts on their own merits – in an ideal world. Here on the planet earth, it’s not working. Essentially, legislators and administrators believe that when forced to choose between worthwhile priorities, the most essential function of education is to prepare students for their careers. Art for art’s sake is an argument that essentially frames the music education funding discussion in this way for legislators and administrators – Do I fund programs that are necessary or those that are a luxury in the context of preparing students for the “real world?” Math and reading are seen as essential in any vocation, music only for the aspiring musician.

We need to reframe the terms of the debate.

Certainly programs will always exist that will nurture those identified as musical prodigies and develop their talents in the pursuit of music as a career. That’s not my greatest concern. The value of music education is in exposing all students to the arts and providing them with a vehicle for developing creative, diverse, and broad-minded individuals more ready for a changing world and changing workplace in any field.

For someone who has written a book entitled Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music that chronicled the stories of 32 CEOs and business leaders articulating the 9 common lessons of music education that translated into success in business, I might be seen as a shameless self-promoter for sharing this message. Understood.

The truth is that the futility of music education advocacy is the reason that I left corporate America to write the book. It’s why I have toured the nation over the last 6 months speaking to early morning television shows, radio stations, civic associations, music teachers and students, AARP chapters, bloggers, podcasters, and just about anyone who would listen. Until we start articulating that music and the arts are essential these days in preparing students for all vocations, current trends will continue. To borrow a tired phrase, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” or words to that effect.

Let’s take sports by comparison. There are scores of current and retired professional athletes feeding Corporate America with analogies between sports and business success at conventions, banquets, and sales training events. And a sports obsessed nation of pro athlete wannabees in business suits eat it up every day.

Answer this question – How is athletic program funding doing compared to music education funding these days?

Don’t get me wrong – I believe in sports as a learning experience and the transcendent lessons of the playground as well. My own son has grown tremendously in terms of his self-confidence by disciplining himself to learn the skill of hitting and catching a baseball, and I’m proud to have played a role in that experience.

But children can achieve the same result by learning scales, playing in a band, or improvising a solo.

One of my great concerns in speaking to music education associations is their resignation to the reality that music will always be first on the funding chopping block. It’s my hope that a new generation of music education students and future educators will re-energize the debate. HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: They enter their careers armed with the reality that the sensitivities and skillsets of the artist are increasingly in demand in the workplace, even in traditionally “left-brain” industries and careers (well articulated by such author/speakers as Daniel Pink, John Kao, and Sir Ken Robinson).

But it won’t happen without passion. There’s always another priority, and generally one that’s worthwhile, that will compete for music and arts education funding if you don’t speak up and let your voice be heard.

Get involved, get others involved, and express your concerns – or live with the consequences.

(Craig Cortello is the author of Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music. He is a speaker/trainer who articulates the universal lessons of music education and uses music to facilitate adult learning in corporate environments. For more info, visit Craig’s website)