Music and humanities important to success

Dear Editor,

As the Lewistown School District grapples with budget cuts and impending shortfalls, our community faces some tough choices with no easy answers. We all want our kids to grow up to lead fulfilling lives as contributing members of society. How to help them develop life skills and a good work ethic, how to give them the tools to grow into stable, successful adults, is our challenge. As a longtime program administrator and advocate for early childhood education, I’d like to voice my adamant support for upholding K-6 music and humanities programs in our local schools.

There is a growing body of research telling us the skills kids develop in music class are much more important indicators of future success than we might have originally believed. Children participating in music programs consistently show higher rates of literacy and verbal comprehension and improved fine motor skills. Practicing music fosters better concentration and memory recall, and helps develop the spatial-temporal reasoning skills we use to solve multi-step problems, essential to proficiency in math, engineering and technology. But this might not even be music’s most compelling benefit.

Google, a company well known for its focus on hiring candidates with a strong background in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), recently released a surprising study: of the eight most important qualities of their top employees, STEM proficiency came in last. The top seven were all so-called “soft skills” - being a good coach, communication, generosity, emotional intelligence, being empathetic and supportive, critical thinking and problem solving, and the ability to make connections across complex ideas; all skills that take root in early childhood and thrive in the presence of strong music and humanities programs. To help our kids succeed, we need to rethink what it takes to be successful.

Great schools build great communities. As we strive to develop Lewistown’s workforce, we must remember that it is impossible to attract or retain young families while reducing the scope and quality of our early childhood education programs. This little town is blessed to have incredibly talented and effective teachers leading our K-12 music programs. Please let school administrators know that we value them, as we value our kids. These teachers, and the essential programs they provide, are not disposable.

Leah Grunzke

Lewistown

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