The US might have a patchy record in setting national agendas for social and educational reform, but just recently it passed a bill in the Senate that makes music a core subject in all schools. A new Every Child Achieves Act, intended to reverse ever-narrowing school curricula, now guarantees that every child will receive an education in music and arts subjects, regardless of their socioeconomic background.
Much campaigning and advocacy went into winning over politicians from both sides to get the bill through. “The music education community has poured its blood, sweat, and tears into getting the Senate’s bill to this point,” said a spokesperson for the US National Association for Music Education, Chris Woodside. “More than 14,000 letters have been sent to Capitol Hill on behalf of music teachers and students. There is bipartisan support for music and arts in this legislation—senators from across the country are acknowledging that these subjects should be national education priorities”.
Already this US initiative has drawn commentary in Britain about why they have no equivalent system. “No such luck here, with endless testing, teachers leaving in droves and the National Plan for Music Education in tatters,” writes The Guardian’s Michele Hanson. “Every child, from any background, should have a chance to play music if they so wish”.
The delivery of music education in Australian schools varies from state to state, and despite wide calls to make it mandatory for all students, the national picture is one of inconsistency and inadequacy. Music Australia has summarised the situation: “Most kids miss out on effective music education while at school: Research shows that as few as 2 out of 10 State schools are able to offer their students an effective music education.”