The DP Rythmn & Blues

Why do we have education? There are two reasons. The first is practical: it’s very difficult to have a functioning economy without people who can read or write. Education has increased in the past centuries as jobs become more specialised: basic literacy may be enough for farmers, but a society reliant on engineers, lawyers, scientists, accountants, and an extremely complicated global financial system requires something more. The second reason is ethical: I think there’s a strong argument to be made that the pursuit of knowledge is good in and of itself. 

This latter argument especially is often overlooked, and for reasons that aren’t entirely unjustified. Being a productive member of society is satisfying but it’s also what pays the bills; more generally, a well-educated population is a more productive one. However, the moral value of learning still frequently flies under the radar in these discussions. This leads me to my thesis for this article: in total, in Year 13, only five people out of 98 take music, and I think that’s a shame.

This is not to say that music education has no practical value. The kinds of skills you learn in music –analysis of specific features, turning vague intuitions concrete, making connections between different styles and genres, and more– is useful across disciplines. This is evident in academia first and foremost: music majors are the most likely to be admitted into medical school in the US, while graduates from top music schools are often sought after in everything from finance to consulting.

But on a deeper level, there is something to be said about a complete unwillingness on the part of many adults to let their kids study something “useless” or “unproductive”. To be clear, academics should be a priority, especially for those of us nearing university, but it shouldn’t be our only priority. Pursuing your interests, despite the fact that you can’t monetise them, or don’t even want to study them in university, isn’t a negative, and taking another science in the DP because of some abstract, undefined, and unspecified idea of practicality will at best bore you to death, and at worst make you absolutely miserable. So for the Year 11s out there with a blank spot in their curriculum currently trying to decide between music and a more “academic” subject, maybe give music a shot. The lack of a final exam certainly doesn’t hurt.