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Music programs missing the patriotic beat. (Curriculum update: the latest developments in math, science, language arts and social studies).

Students today are more likely to know the lyrics to pop chart toppers like "Oops! ... I Did it Again" from Britney Spears than "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or even "The Star Spangled Banner." So says a nationwide survey conducted by music educator Marilyn Ward, who completed the research for a doctoral dissertation in music at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Previous research has shown that patriotic, folk and children's songs help children learn about important events and more closely relate to the hardships and joys of their grandparents and ancestors. "American folk music is a national treasure that holds keys to understanding our country's people, their values, their history and their culture," Ward says.

The survey of 100 well-known American songs--compiled with input from elementary music specialists and men and women over the age of 62--was sent to 4,000 music teachers (80 in each state); 1,792 responded.

THE FINDINGS:

* Overall, few students would be able to sing the well-known songs because teachers spend little time teaching them.

* Folk songs are the most neglected, followed by children's and patriotic songs.

* Urban teachers teach the most children's songs, followed by those in rural schools.

* Suburban schools lag far behind in all three song categories.

* Middle schools have the worst record for teaching folk songs, and high schools have the best.

* California is the least child-song friendly state. Nebraska ranks highest overall for children's songs, while South Dakota is tops in patriotic songs and Kansas in folk songs.

* Hispanic teachers teach far more patriotic songs than any other ethnic group, as do music teachers who have been in the profession the longest.

THE RECOMMENDATIONS:

* Provide teachers with lists of American songs and encourage them to discuss and teach them.

* Consider assigning students a list of songs to be memorized over the summer.

* Avoid cuts to music program budgets.

www.neflin.org/marilyn/folksongsurvey
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Publication:District Administration
Date:Aug 1, 2003
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