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Fall Math, Science, English, History Classes Canceled

Mike Lawson • Perspective • June 15, 2020

Now that I have your attention — I am appalled. Indeed, a tad ticked, frankly. Over the past five years or so that I have been editor of SBO, I have seen amazing music programs that inspire, from the smallest to the largest level of service to students in districts rich and poor. 

I have been privileged to speak directly to over 300 band directors, 50 each year, one from every one of these United States, in putting together our “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” issue each December. I see the hard work and sacrifices, of the haves and the have-nots, each working within their ability with the resources they are blessed with or have to forage for to implement.

The talk now is all about what happens next. What does music education look like in the fall? Forget summer band, that has for the most part been tossed out the window. Choral? Don’t get me started. But what really is eating at me as I pen this missive today, is the canceling and firing of thousands of educators across the country as planning for the new year starts.

I lurk across multiple social media groups for music educators, rarely chiming in, but observing to try to keep my finger on the pulse of what is trending, and frankly, a lot of it isn’t great. All manner of music educators went into full-on triage mode a few months ago and leapt into action to continue this year’s studies for their music students from a distance. Those who had already integrated technology into their programs are at an advantage, those who had not, for lack of funding, training, or even interest, suddenly had to, and for the most part, they did. They dealt with using that tech to create assignments, and in the case of our UpClose feature this month, risked their own health to deliver instruments to homes of inner-city students to keep the music playing. Hard work, sacrifices, determination, and raging disparity.

The biggest thing I have learned as both executive director of Technology in Music Education (TI:ME) and as editor of SBO is that teachers of the arts are treated far differently from teachers of English, math, history, science, and even physical education. If their administration values them, and gives them a lot of support, it often tends to be because they had some connection to the arts personally, or through their own child, or sibling, or parents, or just have the sense to know that music and the arts are extremely important to countless students, and for myriad reasons. But I digress…

So, while so many teachers were scrambling to focus on what year next looks like, crafting plans, working within safety guidelines and readying for a return to a different world, once again, we find administrations either willingly or being forced by their state funding to simply kill the programs completely. It is bad enough that music educators and students face a raging disparity in resources, curriculum, instruments, facilities, and so much more, than their “core” subject counterparts. I can’t even imagine what education would be like if math, science, English, history and other “core” subjects were simply cut because they were not important next year, their teachers fired, classes shuttered. That uneven treatment of the arts was bad enough before the pandemic, but to witness the further devaluing of something so fundamental to the human condition as the arts during a time when the subjects bring comfort, joy, and a refocus to the “core” subjects, is simply heartbreaking. It is hard enough to work on what the new reality looks like without facing wholesale department cuts. Music is an essential subject. Period. We will continue to support you any way we can at SBO and welcome you to share your stories with us for publication, on how you’re getting through this, or if you’re even coming back next fall. Stay strong, focused, and determined. Your students need you.

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