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The Journalists Write Biography

MUSIC EDUCATION IN AMERICA, by Archibald T. Davison '06. Harper and Brothers, New York. 1926.

By P. C. Johnson

OUR educational system is the target for reformers of all kinds. We try desperately with tests, informational and psychological, to reduce the human element, much after the manner of railroad transportation. One result is that we tend to emphasize the knowledge that can be tested conveniently. It is far easier to see if the child knows the words and dates of so many authors, than it is to find out whether he has absorbed the bases of a real literary appreciation and taste. This is true to a greater extent even in music, as Dr. Davison shows in this book. It is easier for the teacher, the mediocre, half-educated teacher that is unfortunately the rule in our schools, to give the pupils exercises requiring knowledge of the mathematical side of music, than it is to instill in them a love of the best music. Another great evil to which our attempts at standardization of education has led is that we feel that "to ascend Parnassus one must first tunnel under its base. No more vicious educational fallacy than this was ever uttered": Dr. Davison continues, "the way to right is never through wrong." The way to teach the value of good music is not to teach bad music first. In the teaching of literature today, we do not start the pupil on something he understands, such as a story from one of our popular children's magazines. We start at once with the great masters. Since their taste is at first unspoiled they will enjoy them and forever afterwards have high literary taste. The object of teaching literature in schools is the creation of good taste and real appreciation, and so ought it to be in music.

There certainly could be no none better fitted to write such a book. Dr. Davison has had rich experience in instilling the ideals of the best music into the minds of youth. In the latter part of the book he takes up specifically the problem of college glee clubs. It is surprising that any defence of the system which he has so well inaugurated here should be necessary. But of any pioneer undertaking, no matter how praiseworthy, there is criticism. The success which has crowned his efforts to carry out his belief has, however, stilled all real objection. His belief is that the American people, and more especially college students, prefer great and lasting music to sentimental "goo," if they are given the chance to become acquainted with it. It is the function of the Harvard Glee Club, as indeed of all glee clubs, to give the colleges and the public the opportunity to hear and consequently to appreciate classic choral music. The ideal is a high one, and no wide program of education such as this was ever carried out in a day. But with the few interruptions by the believers in the "good old days," and by bellicose undergraduates who want to beat Yale in the Intercollegiate Glee Club Contest, the ideal is becoming reality.

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