Why do we put more emphasis on formal music education than art education?

Why is it considered normal and desirable to teach young children music in a structured and formal way but not visual art? Not just at school. Many parents pay for after school piano lessons but how many pay for perspective lessons? How many children are forced to practice their academic drawing skills for hours a week? Take exams?

Money. Can it be that music is more lucrative? Probably. At least with music you can generally earn some money (playing in an orchestra or band) whereas in the visual arts it is virtually impossible to make a living.

Performance. (OK, this is really a subset of the money idea, since people pay for performances, and performances are, by their nature, ephemeral.) Despite the ubiquity of recorded music, music is still chiefly a performance thing. Art is not (with the superb exception of Rolf Harris and his live TV paintings - and of course Rolf Harris was also a musician...). This difference between music and painting was brilliantly captured for me when I heard Joni Mitchell use Van Gogh as an example  many years ago. Still, Joni Mitchell was also a painter. (As an aside, when it comes to contemplating lyrics, only Jethro Tull crops up in my mind more frequently than Joni Mitchell.)

Teaching. Can it be a lack of teachers? The visual arts are in decline as a discipline. Might be that.

Bias. I remember at school that errors in spelling were taken much more seriously than errors in drawing. Overall, this might be a good thing, but it is illustrative of the bias. Children often paint the sky as a band at the top margin of their picture. How often are they criticised for this? What about fence posts that stray from the vertical (ask a child to draw a fence around a house*) or chimneys that tilt from a sloping roof. Would basic errors like these be tolerated in language or music?

*not really a fair example, since I vividly remember my teacher in primary school actually teaching everyone that the posts stay vertical as they turn a corner. Still, I think that the point stands (how many schools run remedial drawing classes?).

Have a look here at an excellent poster on the value of music....

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