The Music Take On TimesTables

Yesterday BBC News added a story about TimesTable Testing, with some 7250 pupils in 290 primary schools due to take part in the trials of new multiplication – supporters arguing it will help ensure all children know their timestables by heart – while those against fear the focus again is on rote learning. Here’s the link to that story :

While both sides have valid points, I believe theyare both missing something much more basic.

Back in october 2017 (tuesday october 3rd, page 35 in education section) – the guardian newspaper talked about a Bradford primary that radically transformed their Sats results by introducing Music, and lots of it, into their education curicculum.

In The USA, Ron Clarke has been pioneering the use of music in education, music making as a means to deepen the understanding of all subjects.

This is very different to the current education system – where the hierarchy of subjects taught is typicaly Science, Engineering, Maths at the top – with the arts at the bottom of the hierarchy – these were the research findings of Sir Ken Robinson – who talks about this in his book In Your Element.

Going way back to the time of ancient Greek Philosopher Socrates – he did not believe even in writing anything down.

If you think about it many countries, cultures and traditions were maintained using the oral tradition – indigenous peoples – pre-literate people who learned about themselves and their traiditons through songs.

So what has this got to do with the timestables ?

Well let me ask you a question – How did You learn the timestables – was it using the singy songy rhythm of 1 x 2 = 2 ,  2 x 2 = 4…

And if you answered Yes – then You are actually saying yes to is using one of the last remaining throwbacks to how we all used to learn, by engaging our minds through music.

Because it was only in 1450 that Johannes Gutenberg invented the worlds first prining press – at that time to print up and publish copies of the bible and books from other religious traditions.

So although it is likely there are concerns on both sides of the argument, for and against timestables learning that need to be addressed – and I don;t have time or space to go through what that might be here – what’s more important is a reminder that in a sense we are all pre-disposed to Music.

Using Music making, whether that’s singing the timestables as a way of deeply internalising information – or using drums and percussion as the Bradford Primary School Teacher did to totally transform their students SATS results,

or even the pioneering work of Ron Clarke In the USA, should be encouraged.

I believe that at some point in the 21st Century, Music Making will become a central part of education – in teaching and discovering all subjects, so that students can reach their full potential.

The challenge ofcourse is those that believe that technology is the answer – I disagree, not to say technology doesn’t have a place, but that place should be at the periphery, on the edges and not central – because I believe that it is Music that must become once again a central part of our education.

This time it won’t be cavemen around campfires telling stories and singing songs (though that depends on the kinds of school trips I guess 🙂

This time it will be a combination of 21st century technology, but… at the heart…. it will be … Music.

And this won’t be The Mozart Effect, which has since been disproved, but rather what I call the MeaningFull Music Making Effect (unles ofcourse the music that happens to resonate with you happens to be Mozart).

Technology on its own promotes a shallow understanding, whereas music absolutely can deepen understanding , and even improve SATs results – this is what a Bradford Primary School found, this is what Ron Clarke is discovering in the USA – though it takes time for ideas to catch on – something called the diffusion of innovation – or rather this time, I believe an old idea whose time has come again.

It was Elon Musk,  I believe who said Technology Degrades – and the two examples he gave were 1) How the Egyptians forgot how to build pyramids and 2) How the Romans who developed advanced AquaDucts had forgotten how to do that.

I believe Elon is right – and to counter this potential “degradinf effect” of technology – as well as potentially improving education levels across the board means making Music Making a central part of education – and actually making Music Making a lifestyle choice as well – and not something that is done by only a few.



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