Low-Income Students Face Unique Challenges; Music Ed Can Help

Low-Income Students Face Unique Challenges; Music Ed Can Help

Music education may be key in creating a better start for students growing up in poverty.

As education in the United States becomes a politically-charged topic of conversation, the dichotomy of low verses higher income schools is becoming more widely discussed. Public schools in the US are largely funded by property taxes in their locale, making schools in wealthier areas far more well-off than those in areas plagued by poverty. This leads to low teacher salaries, fewer student resources, and cutting programs. When schools need to cut programs, music and arts are typically one of the first to be reduced or removed completely.

The issues of low-income schools run deeper than cash alone. Impoverished students face unique issues not typically experienced by their more well-off peers, including lack of parental support, community, and resources.

The greatest irony of cutting music programs from the schools poorer students attend is that participating in music programs alone can help balance the effects of poverty-specific issues, and in big ways.

Poor students are more likely to experience behavioral issues

Children raised in poverty are disproportionately exposed to conditions that can affect social and emotional functioning, leading to behavioral issues that can escalate throughout adolescence into adulthood. This can lead to lower school attendance due to suspension, expulsion, and truancy; as well as delinquency as an adult.

How music helps: Learning to play a musical instrument helps develop the part of the brain responsible for anxiety management, as well as impulse and emotional control. This is the same part of the brain that many neuroscientists are finding to be underdeveloped in children raised in poverty.

Impoverished students are more likely to be English Language Learners

Nearly sixty percent of students learning English as a second language are living in poverty. Students learning English in school face the unique challenge of mastering a new language while they simultaneously master the curriculum of their peers, often causing them to lag behind throughout their entire educational careers.

How music can help: In a study conducted in Los Angeles, 42 low-income Spanish-English bilingual students participated in musical training, while a similar group of students did not. The students who didn’t participate in the music course declined in their reading performance the next year, while the musically trained group kept up with their peers.

Poor students are significantly less likely to perform well on standardized tests

The factors leading to poor test performances of low-income students are multifaceted, but the result is simple: income level seems to be almost directly proportionate to academic success, as can be seen in the following graph from the National Center for Education Statistics:

How music helps: According to a study published by the University of Kansas, elementary schools with high-quality music education programs scored overall about 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math, compared to schools with low-quality programs. The results of the study held true regardless of socioeconomic levels between schools. There are many reasons why music education can be linked to academic achievement, but boosts in brain development, overall enjoyment, and a sense of community in the classroom can all greatly benefit a student’s success.

Poverty among students is an issue with a number unfortunate effects, but we do know that high-quality education can help get disadvantaged students off to a better start. Music, in particular, can be a highly beneficial tool for schools to use to connect with low-income students and mitigate some of the effects of growing up poor, yet music programs in these schools are too often crippled by lack of funding. Music isn't merely an enjoyable side activity, it's a vital part the educational construct and an investment to help break the heartbreaking and costly cycle of poverty.

Cover Image Credit: pixels.com

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.


To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.


I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.


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