The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #60238   Message #963192
Posted By: GUEST
06-Jun-03 - 09:17 AM
Thread Name: Folk Music Dying?
Subject: Folk Music Dying?
Looks like there is some work to be done. The following press release came from the University of Florida.

rich r


May 28, 2003

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Children in the United States aren't singing the songs of their heritage, an omission that puts the nation in jeopardy of losing a longstanding and rich part of its identity, a new University of Florida study suggests. A recent nationwide survey found school music programs are allowing generations-old lullabies, and historical children's and folk songs to be ignored, with some teachers replacing them with the latest pop hits.

Today's school kids are more likely to know the lyrics to popular songs, such as Britney Spears' "Oops I Did it Again" or "Lose Yourself" by Eminem, than to "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," said Marilyn Ward, who did the research for her doctoral dissertation in music this spring.

"The study found that, overall, the vast majority of young people could not sing patriotic, folk and children's songs, because teachers who teach them at all frequently don't go over the songs enough for students to learn them," she said. "Most students could not be expected to sing from memory songs such as 'Home on the Range,' 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' or "Bingo.'"
The findings are especially troubling as ailing school districts nationwide are considering cutting music programs in an effort to save money, experts say.

Ward surveyed 4,000 music teachers nationwide from elementary to high school in the summer and early fall of 2002 about how much they taught and how well their students knew by memory 100 well-known songs considered representative of the American heritage. Few students can even sing the national anthem, the study found. "When people stand up and don't sing the 'Star Spangled Banner,' there's a reason for that," Ward said. "They don't know it."

Research has shown these songs not only help children learn about important events, but also allow them to more closely relate to the hardships and joys of their grandparents and ancestors by stepping into their shoes, Ward said. "Music broadens our understanding by letting us experience history - making it more memorable and meaningful than reading isolated stories of events from another time," she said.

For example, she said, "I've got a mule, her name is Sal, 15 miles on the Erie Canal," begin the words to the song that chronicles a grueling, old-fashioned trip along the famous waterway. Another example, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again," dramatizes a welcome end to a long war, she said.

To create a list of 100 representative songs, Ward distributed written surveys to 223 men and women over 62 who grew up in 44 states as well as 30 elementary music specialists at top universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report. She then sent written surveys to 4,000 general music teachers listed by the National Association for Music Education - 80 in each state - asking how many of their students could sing these songs from memory. Based on how much time they had spent teaching each song, the teachers - 1,792 of whom responded - were asked to rate this knowledge using one of five measures: practically all, most, some, few or practically none.

Most of the teachers said that few students would be able to sing the songs and that they had spent little time teaching them. Folk songs were the most neglected, followed by children's and patriotic songs.

"Although Americans say that the singing of folk songs and songs of our heritage are important, we are teaching very few of them in the schools," said UF music Professor Russell Robinson, who supervised the study. "Perhaps this research will alert educators and parents that what we say we want for our young people is not necessarily what we're teaching."

Urban schoolteachers taught the most children's songs, followed by those in rural schools. Suburban schools lagged far behind in every category. Middle schools had the worst record for teaching folk songs and high schools the best, Ward said. California was the least child-song friendly state, receiving the lowest score for knowledge of children's songs. Nebraska ranked highest overall and in the children's songs category, while South Dakota was tops in patriotic songs and Kansas in folk songs, she said. Hispanic teachers taught far more patriotic songs than any other ethnic group, as did music teachers who had been in the profession the longest, Ward said. And private school teachers consistently outperformed public school teachers in every category, she said.

Mike Blakeslee, deputy executive director of the National Association for Music Education, said he is not surprised by the study's findings and believes that cuts in public school music programs are a factor. "Especially lately, we have been receiving a lot of anecdotal accounts of severe challenges to music programs," he said. "It's a truism that in hard times music programs
are the first to go. Our experience from our members across the nation seems to bear that out." Music programs now are under the double pressure of a poor economy and new mandates, many of which place a great deal of emphasis on narrowly defined testing for reading and math. As a result, many students do not receive satisfactory music education, Blakeslee said. "Music is one of the cultural milestones in our society," he said. "It helps kids grow and develop in so many ways."

Ward said she believes more children would learn the tunes if music teachers received lists of American songs and worked with their colleagues to help pass along the knowledge. "In the same way that students are given required summer reading lists, music teachers could assign a list of songs to be memorized over the summer," she said.

Not learning these songs contributes to the loss of a sense of community, which may be a factor in anti-social attitudes and behavior, Ward said. "American children's folk music is a national treasure that holds keys to understanding our country's people, their values, their history and their culture," she said. "Without it, our nation could lose its heritage."