We’re Insidious

The unschoolers are infiltrating again.

Consider the school music program described today in a New York Times editorial piece by David Bornstein:

Little Kids Rock has had remarkable success getting students excited about music class by putting instruments (mostly guitars) into their hands on day one, showing them simple techniques to get started playing quickly, and allowing them to play music that they love to listen to.

The program is controversial, of course—critics say that schools should be teaching more serious music, that letting kids just play around with pop music they like isn’t serious education.

But the program’s supporters sound like unschoolers—they’ve discovered that letting the kids get excited about music that interests them triggers far more:

It’s important to note that the vast majority of the program’s teachers — and its biggest supporters — are themselves classically trained music instructors, who also frequently teach orchestra, chorus or jazz or marching bands. A few of them wrote in to share their experiences with Little Kids Rock. MamfeMan (20) wrote that the program had “shaped the culture of my school, the mind-set of these students, and has been — without a doubt — the most inspirational part of my life.” Another teacher, who is based in Philadelphia and teaches fifth graders, (56) added that when “students who want to learn a certain song … go ahead and learn the chords, and practice till they ‘get it’’’ the belief in learning-through-practice carries over to other areas of school.

Almost makes me think there’s hope for conventional education. If this style of learning catches on so well in music, maybe it’ll spread to other subjects, too.

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2 comments on “We’re Insidious

  1. When my nephew wanted to learn drums, his teacher put him on a single snare and taught him one rhythm, then another. Listening to him practice was excruciatingly boring. My nephew isn’t playing “drums” any more. When my son wanted to learn drums I got a recommendation from someone in my homeschool group and totally lucked out! The teacher said, “Tell him to bring in an iPod with some favorite tunes on it.” He sat my 9yo son down in front of a full drum kit, turned on his music, and showed him how to play ALL the drums (and cymbals!) along with the song. Within a month he could play more than his cousin had ever learned! Within two months he was playing cool (if simple) drum riffs. Now eight months later, he is still going strong and doing complicated things with all four limbs at the same time that I couldn’t even do in my dreams.

  2. It’s really interesting to me to see how music education progresses (or not). When I was in school (a million years ago), I wanted to play drums SO BADLY! I asked and I remember very distinctly that the music teacher said no because “girls don’t play drums.” The funniest part of that was that I was a trumpet player. You know, such a “girly” instrument.

    Today, I work for an educational rap company, and while we have been heralded by institutions like the NY Times, NPR, and Getting Smart, so many educators are closed off to what we do because of the word “rap,” or because we are a technology-based educational resource. I’m always so excited when teachers “get it” and embrace what we do.

    I think the best way to educate is to inspire. If putting a guitar in their hands gets them motivated to learn, then bravo!

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