Times (But Not Us) Alarmed by the State of Junior High Arts Education

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The New York Times and several Concerned Citizens claim "'Mediocre' Arts Skills for American Eighth-Graders," but though we are usually game for any denunciation of our lousy educational system, we must protest their stern judgment.

For one thing, the educators seems shocked that "only about half of eighth graders who listened to a passage of George Gershwin's instrumental classic, Rhapsody in Blue, were able to identify the solo instrument as a clarinet." Considering that in a recent test 50 percent of U.S. students couldn't identify New York state on a map, we'd say American kids are doing better at musicology than at geography, at least. Also, the clarinet question is grotesquely unfair; the tongue-cluckers are over-valuing their own 20th-century familiarity with what now -- let's face it -- must be considered antique instruments. Young people may not have ever experienced an actual non-electronic drum kit, let alone a clarinet. That many of them can recognize this relic of a bygone era should be cause for rejoicing.

The further complaints that half of the student couldn't identify a half-note nor a Renaissance painting are still glass-half-full news to us. How did any of them get so knowledgeable in this noise-and-crap factory that is modern pop culture? Let kids get into making art and making music and their need will lead them to knowledge. Of course the educational system must facilitate that, and by all means keep schools on the hook, but let's also acknowledge and celebrate that the kids have managed to learn a lot without any help from their teachers, as usual. Photo (cc) macieklew.

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