Our Challenge for the Eighties
I hope you will forgive me the use of a recent but already worn cliché, but before addressing the challenge for the decade ahead of us I think it appropriate to reflect upon our present status as we begin the year 1980. The cliché to which I refer is the good news, bad news one—I have some of each for you.
First, some good news: I noted a very interesting column in this past Sunday's Tallahassee Democrat, on the sports page no less, by Red Barber. Some of you will remember Red Barber as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He is now retired, living in Tallahassee, and writes a regular column in the local Sunday newspaper. Last Sunday's column was headed, "When Athletics Fail Us You Can Turn to the Arts." Intriguing, no? After citing some of the more apparent problems in the sports world today, such as the question of our participation in the Olympic games in Moscow, problematic contract talks between baseball management and the players, investigations of collegiate sports activities in two prominent southwestern universities, and several others, Red Barber goes on to write:
Well, if you are beginning to be turned off about athletics, turn on WFSU-TV. This is our local Public Broadcasting System outlet, and it carries symphonies, ballet performances, interviews with interesting people, talk shows, musical recitals and no commercials.
Should you join the growing trend to WFSU-TV you will have more company than you expected. Think I'm kidding? Not long ago I tuned in for a program by the distinguished Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. It happened to be a celebration of its 60th birthday. The conductor, Lorin Maazel, also did the commentary. I heard Maestro Maazel say something that startled me so much I doubted what I thought I had heard.
I called Ed Hula at WFSU-TV and asked could he verify what I thought I had heard. Certainly in this highly athletic-oriented society in which we live I didn't wish to get caught off base. Not in Tallahassee with its Seminole Boosters, its Orange Bowl visit that undoubtedly soon will be entered in the Leon County history books, and the current football recruiting campaign.
Hula is not only an excellent broadcaster but he is also an obliging young man. Maestro Maazel is a top conductor who knows his trade, and would be most careful to check his data before spreading it on PBS. Herewith, verbatim, is what Hula confirmed about the remarks by Maazel:
Last year in the United States more people bought tickets to see ballet than to watch professional football.
Last year in the United States more money was spent on the purchase of classical music recordings than on the purchase of tickets to all the baseball games played in the American and National Leagues.
The performing arts have been a part of our national lifestyle. When the assets of the United States are evaluated abroad, our cultural institutions are ranked among the most important of these.
I know Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Pete Rozell are very pleasant men, dedicated to their tasks of making baseball and football nationally addictive, and I wish them well. I just hope the remarks of Maestro Maazel will not unduly upset them.
I am greatly relieved. I had begun to fear we would soon have nothing but football and baseball games on television. I had become apprehensive that all conversation would soon be of hits and errors or of punts and passes.
Now I know there is a way out. There is a mighty army of viewers who appreciate that ballet requires much more athletic skill and grace and control and training than do our so-called manly sports. There is a growing number of viewers who know that to play music well requires training, practice and study. You can't pass a class in music just because you play football.
Football games and baseball games come and go. The players perform and fade away. What Beethoven, Bach, Verdi, Brahms, Puccini and Tchaikovsky wrote endures, and will continue to endure long after Doak Campbell and Yankee stadiums have fallen down from disuse.
I enjoyed the program the Cleveland Symphony played, but what its conductor said made more sense than anything I've heard lately.
That's the good news. I'm not certain that Lorin Maazel's statistics are absolutely accurate, although I have read them elsewhere, but I do know that at my own alma mater, The University of Iowa, it was reported recently that more people attend arts events—the museum, the University Theatre, dance, and concerts—than attend all of the combined Big Ten sports events on that campus. So the good news is that the arts are getting attention, they seem to be getting better attendance, and we know also that participation in amateur orchestras and chamber music, for example, is up. However, the bad news is that at least on our campus attendance at our Artist Series is not only in serious decline, but the age level of the patrons is not at all what one would expect on a university campus. In fact at many events the audience is made up largely of older people and more women than men. In other words while the national consciousness of the arts and the importance of the arts seems to be on the increase, in many local situations the support for traditional activities such as the Artist Series seems to be on the decline.
More good news: Many of the various and diverse groups in arts education are finally pulling together in a common cause, having within the past two years formed an organization called the Assembly of National Arts Education Organizations. Its purpose is to work together in influencing legislation in Washington and there seem to be signs that it is having some positive effect. But the bad news is that there is still a tremendous amount of wheel spinning in Washington. There has to date been no attention by the Congress to the needs of arts education at all levels in this country, and only recently has there begun to be attention on the part of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Good news: Music enrollments in colleges and universities have held up remarkably well, particularly in view of the over-supply of teachers in recent years and the fact that a significant percentage of undergraduate music students are in teacher education. However, the bad news is that that pattern ceased as of about two years ago, and music enrollments are indeed now on the decline, if only gradually thus far.
Good news again: The United States is now acknowledged as the best musical training ground in the world. While we sent our young artists to Europe for their "finishing" only a few years ago, the Europeans (as well as the Japanese, the Koreans, and others) now look to American schools of music for leadership and indeed send some of their young people here for study. The bad news is that we still do not employ American-born conductors in this country—our musical establishment (particularly the orchestras) still will not emphasize new American music (or new music, period), and one can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of American pianists who make a living as solo concert artists. In other words we have done very well training the producers of music, but we have not done so well at educating the consumers of music.
So where are we in music in higher education as we begin a new decade? Certainly we do some things very well, and one would like to think that we could continue a steady line of progress toward better things. However. the storm clouds on the horizon are ominous enough that I think we must address them because this coming decade, perhaps even the next five or six years, will be critical for many colleges and universities.
You have probably heard about or perhaps read recently summaries of the Report of the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education. This is the final Carnegie commission to be chaired by Clark Kerr, and this report was analyzed rather thoroughly in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I have also read some briefer reports in other newspapers, and there has been some editorializing about it as well. This most recent Carnegie Report projects an enrollment decline for higher education in the following pattern: stability through 1983, then decline from 1983 to 1988; stability from 1988 to 1990, then sharper decline from 1991 to 1997. By 1997 we will have 23 percent fewer college-age students in the United States than at the present time. The Carnegie Report further projects accompanying problems of ethics, internal strife, lower standards, and so forth. The following quotation from the Report is especially gloomy: "A downward drift in quality, balance, integrity, dynamism, diversity, private initiative and research capability is not only possible—it is quite likely!"
To go on with this gloominess I will report to you from a paper commissioned by the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation entitled Accountability in Higher Education. It was written by Robert J. Casey (Assistant Director, Fiscal Affairs, Tennessee Higher Education Commission) and John W. Harris (Professor of Education at Middle Tennessee State University). The main points of the paper are addressed toward accreditation, but Casey and Harris make the point that most colleges and universities have been planning against retrenchment rather than planning for retrenchment. That is a point well taken, although I know of some institutions where planning for retrenchment has caused more morale problems on the campus than the administration could cope with. The authors also list a number of so-called "business approaches" being used by some institutions as they plan against retrenchment and they bear mentioning if only because they are so abhorrent. Incidentally, I personally do not think the term "business approach" is a fair or appropriate one for the tactics I will list, because I happen to think there are some business approaches that are desirable in higher education these days. Nevertheless, let me give a few of the most extreme from a longer list of questionable tactics practiced by some colleges and universities to maintain their enrollments.
- Relaxing or abandoning standards for admission, retention, graduation, often under the guise of affirmative action.
- Allocating dollars that are needed for program improvement to the recruiting of students.
- Hiring "headhunters" on a commission basis to find students.
- Signing blank visa forms so that recruiters can round up foreign students, often unevaluated.
- Advertising how much "cheap" credit can be granted toward a degree.
- Giving course numbers and names to on-campus activities such as senior citizen meetings, square dancing groups, and so forth.
The point that Casey and Harris are making is that we do face a definite challenge in the maintenance of quality in higher education, and indeed, the report of the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education points to the importance of the role of accreditation in monitoring standards and questionable activity over the next 20 years. Clark Kerr is quoted as saying that "Much will depend on improvement of regional and specialized accrediting."
I can tell you that from my personal experience I have witnessed several disturbing developments in music schools and departments over the past few years. I know of one small private institution in this general part of the country that has recently proposed to reduce its faculty and thereby reduce its music curriculum below a level that is appropriate for the granting of a music major degree. However, the institution has made no suggestion that it intends to abandon its music major program—it would obviously lose prospective students. Yet those students will be delivered an inferior education, not because of the caliber of teaching that is there but because of the deficiencies in the curriculum itself. I know of another larger institution in which the administration has in the past year begun seriously to question the cost of the music program. It is an institution in which expenditures are measured against revenues, program by program, and of course music can never look good in that comparison. The percentage of revenues to expenditures in that institution is not significantly different in 1980 from what it was in 1974, but due to inflation the "loss" figure is now large enough to attract attention. The point of mentioning this, however, is that music faculty members in that institution are blaming each other, in some cases area against area, for their problem, when in fact the culprit is a type of accountability that has never been appropriate for arts programs, especially music. I fear, however, that the reaction of that faculty is indicative of what will happen in other institutions as enrollment declines and the central administration begins to investigate red ink by specific areas.
The Carnegie Council in its Report has presented some interesting and pertinent "challenges" for us as we face the economic problems of the coming decade. These are drawn from a much larger list of suggestions, but they are those that I believe most appropriate and pertinent for faculty to think about. First, the Carnegie Council charges us to preserve an essential balance among the main intellectual streams of academic endeavor against the pulls of the market. I find the current revision of liberal studies programs on campuses very encouraging, but we had better be about that business because I fear that increasing economic problems will cause a pull away from emphasis on liberal studies toward increased emphasis on more specialized studies. And certainly we in music are as guilty of that as anyone.
The Carnegie Council also challenges us to enhance the integrity of conduct on campus. I perceive this to be addressed to both students and faculty. As students tend to value more the degree itself rather than the education that leads to it, we seem to observe increasing amounts of cheating, for example, and I wonder if faculty are as serious and concerned about these issues as they once were. Integrity of conduct speaks also to the behavior of faculty as we face increasing adversity; I refer here particularly to collegiality on the campus and the understanding of the problems of those in other disciplines, or even in other sub-disciplines within the music field.
The Carnegie Council calls for us to be able to make dynamic adjustments to new possibilities without any compensating increase in resources. Certainly the needs for revision and improvement in our curricula, perhaps in meeting the challenge of a different type of student body (older persons, those returning to school after some period of absence, a larger percentage of minority students, and so forth) or taking advantage of new technology in our instructional procedures, are going to have to be accommodated without significant increases in funding. In other words we may actually have to change, i.e., give up something of the old in order to accommodate something new, rather than simply add on as we have usually done in the past.
The Carnegie Council urges us to create conditions that will encourage effective leadership. This is something to which I believe both faculty and administrators will have to be especially sensitive. As we face more difficult decisions they will often have to be made more centrally—most of us will not make adverse decisions against ourselves—but we must also preserve the appropriate role of faculty governance. If you as a faculty insist on a role in governance that cripples your leadership, no one will make the difficult decisions and we will flounder in chaos.
The Carnegie Council challenges us to enhance your research capabilities. This may seem to be an idealistic challenge in the face of diminishing resources, but I suggest to you that as far as personnel are concerned, perhaps this is a very appropriate time for us to think about increasing our research activities. If we can in some way maintain faculty positions despite the decline in enrollment (and in many institutions that will be the case because of "tenured in" faculties), we may find more faculty members with adequate time to conduct research of quality. Whether they will accept that challenge or not, particularly those who have done no research for a decade or more, remains to be seen.
Another challenge posed by the Carnegie Council that I found particularly interesting was for the maintenance of internal quality of campus life. That, it seems to me, speaks rather directly to us. Certainly the contribution of music and the arts is an important part of that "internal quality" of campus life, and we should do all we can to make them evermore important and to serve our faculty colleagues and our entire student bodies by enriching their lives through the cultural opportunities we present.
In summary of many of the challenges above, it seems to me that the greatest challenge of all is for us to strive for higher quality with fewer resources. The maintenance of quality in higher education must receive our highest priority, and that will be increasingly difficult over the next decade. We must also encourage innovation and flexibility, and I remind you that in some minds innovation—or change of any kind—is the diametric opposite of the maintenance of quality. Most of all we must strive for the most effective use of all our resources, but especially our human resources.
Let us now turn to music programs themselves, and some challenges that I see important for us in the 1980s. I will divide this into four general categories: curriculum, instruction, research, and extension.
In the area of curriculum it will be important for us to maintain a balance between traditional values and procedures, and fresh approaches to educating for what young musicians need in the way of skills, knowledges, and attitudes. In some respects the backgrounds of music students seem not to have changed in decades (in the basic skills, for example), and in others backgrounds have changed greatly in the last ten or twenty years. The level of technical proficiency in instrumental performance, for example, is really quite astounding in today's young students. Perhaps our curricula ought to give more attention to those areas in which more remediation or more thorough preparation is needed, and revise to some extent those areas in which students come with better preparation.
The Carnegie Council warns that "the counter culture of students [may] overwhelm the high culture of academics." In expanding or revising curricula in the eighties it will be important that we not succumb entirely to the "low culture" that some students will desire. Conversely there is much that we could do to prepare young people for important roles for which little formal preparation is now available, such areas as broadcasting, music and arts criticism, technology, and management. Perhaps one can or will be able to determine those institutions that are sincere in this effort from those that are simply trying to improve their "marketability" by the exactness of standards in such new curricula. There will also likely be the danger that we will stampede in one music vocational direction and then another, such as we seem to have done with music business degrees in the last five to seven years.
In general education, i.e., those offerings for the non-professional music student, most institutions can improve their offerings, if not in the variety and interest of courses offered, then at least in the level of teaching itself. Doctoral-degree-granting institutions such as my own are much at fault here—we have simply not given attention to the preparation of college teachers for general education in music. And most institutions, particularly those with the larger and more professionally oriented schools of music, are negligent about rewarding excellent teaching in this area.
There are some specific challenges also in the area of instruction. First, we are still too inefficient and too ineffective in the training of basic musical skills—ear training, sight singing, and reading. The application of computer-assisted instruction will become increasingly important, I believe, at least for ear training, and the technology soon may afford sight singing training with the help of friendly machines. Perhaps the technology will also allow more precise research into the nature of music learning and thus encourage and assist us toward greater efficiency in teaching basic skills.
Rather than to address "standards," we might issue a challenge in the maintenance of appropriate levels of expectation—in final examinations, in juries, in research papers, and in the various other types of projects about which lazy students complain but through which much real learning takes place. Generally speaking, students do not achieve more than we expect, and the level of expectation over the past decade seems to have declined as the percentage of college-age youth attending colleges increases. Class sizes and teacher time and other such matters also have something to do with this, but the situation that appalls me most is when I observe students successfully pressuring faculty members, either subtly or rather directly, to lower their expectations. That will be a very important issue in the 1980s, particularly in those schools that are forced to "open up" their admissions in order to attract the numbers of students to heat the buildings and pay the faculty salaries.
The challenge seems always to be before us of melding the teaching of the studio with that of the music classroom, and I see that as no less an item for the 80s. Faculty attitudes about such matters are the key, there being no more effective motivator for music history and theory learning than the studio teacher who demonstrates that the application of that knowledge through performance is an important part of learning the musical art. In too many instances faculty members are critical of what their colleagues are not teaching rather than supportive of what they are teaching. Our common goal should be the development of what I like to term "musical independence" in our students—the ability to make musical decisions independent of a teacher, a phonograph record, or a colleague. That is not to say that one should not look for models, particularly at a young age and perhaps always, but it does suggest that we should produce thinking performers and musically active scholars and teachers.
Our shrinking resources may make attention to research all the more important in the future. First, as I stated earlier, we desperately need some basic research on how people perceive and learn music in order to improve our curricula and instruction. We are about to announce the formal establishment of a Center for Music Research on the Florida State University campus which will provide us with a very powerful capability in this area. We believe we are on the threshold of significant advancements in the use of computers for instruction, in composition and as a tool in learning compositional techniques, in research into such areas as musical perception, and in improving the technology for music printing. We believe this to be a time in which greater, not less, attention should be devoted to research efforts. Further, for some music faculty members the opportunity for research may be greater in the future simply because of the time available. Stable, tenured faculties may have fewer students to serve and thus more time to devote to research. I see the need, perhaps a direct challenge for institutions such as our own, to sponsor post-doctoral seminars and institutes to help stimulate research ideas among interested faculty members in this region.
Under the heading of "Extension" the challenge seems apparent for us to deal with people's desire for music and culture. Even if slowly, the United States is maturing in this respect and the music departments and schools of our institutions of higher education must be prepared to reach out to their surrounding communities with performances, lectures, services to elementary and secondary schools, etc. Some institutions do this much better than others at the present time, but this extension to the community seems to me to be a natural function that we should perform. I have pointed out to the Florida State University music faculty that our combined salaries in music at this institution alone, modest as they are, are greater than the entire commitment of the State to the arts through the State Arts Council. Arts activities through state universities have, after all, been the major state support of the arts for many years, and I am a strong believer that we should not define our function too narrowly. Furthermore, for the good of both our institutions and our musical culture, I think this extension function is limited not just to publicly-supported schools but applies to the private institutions as well. We also may find that we are making too little use of various community agencies in the arts, that is while we should extend outward we should also be looking for opportunities to draw community resources into our activities.
Since you are exclusively a faculty group, I think it appropriate to direct some remarks to what we might look for in the 1980s regarding faculty welfare and attitudes. Certainly I expect that we will always have concern about salaries and compensation, and the present economic picture makes that all the more serious a matter. As we all spend more money for energy and particularly for petroleum, substantial salary increases may be all the harder to come by. However, I presume that none of us embarked on a career in either music or academics with money as the primary goal. If our expectations are so high as to result in constant frustration, our work and our purpose will be affected. The Carnegie Council Report expresses "concern that some of the effectiveness and creativity of students and scholars associated with high morale and a belief in high purpose may be eroding." Stated simply, if our primary interest is the size of our paychecks while our students' primary interest is the most expeditious course toward a musical vocation—a situation that seems already to exist in some institutions—something very important will have been lost to us.
A stringent economic situation may affect us adversely in several other ways as well. For example, in some instances faculty may have less freedom to teach the courses they like best to teach, in order that more essential subjects be taught. In many instances institutions have tried to stimulate faculty by encouraging them to develop "pet" courses, and many of the smaller and less prosperous institutions will no longer be able to afford that. Further, we may have less faculty mobility because of economics, and the "tenured in" situation in which many institutions will find themselves poses a serious problem. Where will the stimulation and fresh thinking come from? The answer to that is YOU! That may be the greatest challenge of all to individuals and frankly, limited resources for such items as faculty travel may leave the real impetus for professional stimulation in the hands of the individual rather than under the sponsorship of the institutions.
Finally, after all this gloom and doom, let's look at the brighter side. First, the South is one of the areas of the nation where least decline is expected—in fact, some projections indicate a five percent increase in college-age population in our region by the year 2000. Second, the arts are definitely on the rise in the national consciousness, and I sense that we, music and the other arts, are evermore "accepted" in academe. Third and finally—you may have found me out by now—the challenge of the 80s is really not so different from what we have faced in the 70s—in degree perhaps, but not in substance. I have a friend who likes to quote, "Problems are simply opportunities in work clothes." Our creativity and imagination have always been our greatest resources in higher education. We'll just have to lean on them more heavily.
This address was given at the meeting of the Southern Chapter at Florida State University, Tallahassee, February 7-9, 1980.
Robert Glidden was president of Ohio University from 1994 until his retirement in 2004, and served as interim president of California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo from August 2010 to February 2011. From 1979 to 1994 he was at Florida State University, as professor and dean of the School of Music (1979-91) and then as provost and vice president for academic affairs (1991-94). During his career he has been a member of the faculties at Wright State University, Indiana University, The University of Oklahoma, and he was dean of music at Bowling Green State University in the late 1970s. He also served as executive director of the National Association of Schools of Music (1972-75). A native of Iowa, he took his academic degrees, all in music, from The University of Iowa. He is a lifetime member of the College Music Society.
President Glidden has been active in higher education accreditation for 40 years. He was chairman of the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation in the mid-1980s and was founding chair of the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (1996-98). Presently he serves on the Accreditation Committee for the American Bar Association.
Dr. Glidden has been a consultant or evaluator for more than 90 colleges and universities across the United States and has delivered papers on various aspects of American higher education in Europe and Asia. He has twice served on higher education quality assessment teams for the Irish government, and he has presented workshops for the rectors of the Saudi Arabian Universities.