It’s the time of year again when students all over the world who have been toiling for the last few years to earn a degree finally get to have that piece of paper put into their hands. No one questions the validity of their degrees, or disregards the hard work that is put into earning one. Except this year in Pakistan, a remarkable degree is being passed out. We may not think that a master’s degree in music is a surprising or an otherwise special degree. For us, the ability to study music is taken for granted.
Don’t Stop the Music
It’s the time of year again when students all over the world who have been toiling for the last few years to earn a degree finally get to have that piece of paper put into their hands. No one questions the validity of their degrees, or disregards the hard work that is put into earning one.
Except this year in Pakistan, a remarkable degree is being passed out. We may not think that a master’s degree in music is a surprising or an otherwise special degree. For us, the ability to study music is taken for granted.
For students at Punjab University, it is a historical first.
The students graduating this spring are the first able to complete a master’s in music in Pakistan, but even this comes with adversity. Universities fear the Islami Jamiat Talaba, the largest student organization in Pakistan. The organization is quoted as saying that the study of music is “un-Islamic and vulgar,” and it refers to the art and design department as “darul kufr” (house of sin).
Despite this strong adversity, students at Punjab University have fought for what they believe in and, even though they can’t even study on university grounds, have managed to succeed. I don’t mean to say that the Islami Jamiat Talaba is wrong in its beliefs–art may not be for everyone–but I am impressed by the music students’ abilities to look beyond the common thought.
In the United States, music education is something completely taken for granted. We barely offer music programs in elementary and middle schools anymore, with the excuse of insufficient funding. But students in Pakistan who can’t study music because of protests, not to mention a lack of support and funding, can still come up with a solution.
Even with our deficient commitment to music, when we hear about students graduating with a master’s degree in music, we don’t question the validity of their studies. To us, western and classical music are just a part of our society, something we knowingly accept and would rarely, if ever, question.
We’ve had music education since the colonial times. The United States even established its first music school in the 18th century. Since it’s so ingrained in our culture, I would have never considered that other parts of the world wouldn’t be allowed to study music. We did have our bout with jazz, swing and later, rock and roll, but classical music, if it has ever been questioned as worthy of study, would be ridiculous for us to question now. I had never known that some other cultures view classical music as sacrilegious.
For the students in Pakistan to overcome adversity in order to study what they believe in is incredible. We disregard our own abilities to study music and pass them off as too expensive or unnecessary. It was announced this week in French Valley, Calif., at Temecula Elementary School that they have decided to cut both music and P.E. classes for this fall. So these children will not only be deprived of physical activity, but will also lose out on all the advantages that come with learning music.
Students who study music are statistically shown to do better in school, in society and in life. Students who play a musical instrument are known to be overall better at math. Studying music requires a level of discipline that is hard to come by in any other field, while still being able to express oneself. Yet we still cut music programs as if they were just pleasurable pastimes, easily ignored. But what is the use of studying only math if students haven’t developed the emotional intelligence to really embrace and understand it?
How sad is it that one group of students in Pakistan manages to hide for two years in order to complete a degree in music and we, who support music to some extent, can simply dump it as if it were nothing better than garbage?
A world without music would be a sad one. At least the students at Punjab University have that figured out. When will we?