NBC coverage of Arts and Cognition report draws comment

March 6, 2008

Teachers and parents are logging in to discuss NBC News correspondent Robert Bazell’s video report on the connection between the arts and other forms of learning. The news report, based on the findings of the Dana Arts and Cognition Consortium, focused on the work of one of its seven research leaders, Harvard psychologist Elizabeth Spelke.

“There are many fascinating findings—many pieces in a big puzzle that is far from solved,” Bazell writes in the blog that accompanies the report. “But it is clear there is a powerful connection between the arts and ability to learn many subjects.” Parents, teachers and others who have commented on the blog agree.

“My child was taught third and fourth grade Math WITH music by a wonderful teacher, Mr. Gleason,” says a commenter named Gail. “I was skeptical at first, but she became #1 in Math in her future classes for MANY years.”

Sister Beth Dowd described the effect of the program she leads in New York: “Here at Songcatchers Inc. we run an after school music program for disadvantaged children. Talented high school teachers are their volunteer teachers. When 2 girls had not been coming and were called to be sure they were all right, the mom’s response: ‘They have to go back to music. When they dropped music, their marks went down’!”

A common theme in the comments, and in the story, is the reduction in arts instruction as schools choose instead to increase time spent learning basic math and reading, two subjects that are directly tested under the rules of the No Child Left Behind [NCLB] legislation.

“Thank you for this covering this story,” comments Rob Bowden of Maryland. “Unfortunately, because of curriculum narrowing caused by the pressures of NCLB, music may be eliminated or reduced in many Baltimore/DC area schools before such research is accepted by school administrators.”

 A Florida teacher, who signed her comment “Buckstein,” tells her own story: “As a music teacher that has lost her 2 last teaching positions due to a lack of money in the system, I am happy to see this story air. As much as we need to teach math, reading and all the other subjects, music helps to teach these subjects to the majority of the children that do not learn through reading a textbook and simply taking. Adding music and the arts increases the amount [of] learning by leaps and bounds.”

 Nancy in New Jersey seconds her opinion: “I am a music teacher and am a strong advocate in my state however it is nice to have some validation from outside sources ... so Thanks!”

 For more comments, please see the DailyNightly blog entry.