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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000712.txt from 1998/04

From: "Edwin V. Lacy" <>
Subj: RE: Illinois Music Teachers
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 1998 16:43:05 -0400

On Tue, 14 Apr 1998, SEAN TALBOT wrote:

> Things have needed to change in Illinois for some time. Why does IHSA
> (Illinois High School Association) run the music contests when they
> specialize in athletics.......give that to IMEA (Illinois Music
> Educators Association).

OK, I'm afraid I may get a little carried away on this one. From 1961 -
1965, I taught instrumental music in the public schools of Robinson,
Illinois. Even then, the educational system was incredibly fouled up in
the state. I haven't kept up with all the developments since then, but
recent messages on this list seem to indicate that they haven't improved a
great deal.

Every state has some problems in their educational system, but few that I
have ever heard of have as many problems as does Illinois. It begins with
school organization. Illinois is 50 to 75 years or more behind its
neighbor states when it comes to having a streamlined, efficient system of
school organization. In the county in which I taught, Crawford County,
population about 10,000, there were at one time 21 different school
corporations in that single county! Altogether, there are seven different
types of school corporations which might govern the schools in a given
community - high school districts, elementary school districts, community
unit districts, community consolidated districts, and others which I can't
even remember now. And, every district has to have its own
superintendent, its own board of education, its own administrative
structure, its own bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodial personnel,
etc., to say nothing of its own system of financial control and its own
opportunities to squander funds intended for the education of students.

In addition, every county had a person with the title of "County
Superintendent of Schools." However, this person has very little to do in
the way of actual duties or responsibilities. Some of them have their own
assistant superintendents, secretaries, etc. Essentially, this office
serves only as the liason with the state department of education, and are
the way that the state department keeps their thumb on what is going on in
the individual counties and school districts.

In some of the smaller communities downstate, there are separate
elementary school and high school districts in a single town, each with
the entire structure I mentioned above, and with no sign of coordination
or communication between them. Thus, music students begin in the
elementary program, which is organized to serve the needs of the
elementary school. Then, when the students go to the high school, they
are under a new program, run by a band director they have never even met
before, and organized along entirely different lines than the program in
which they began. It is no wonder that the attrition rate at this level
is so high.

To top it all off, many music activities are governed by an organization
called the IHSA, or Illinois High School Association. The counterpart in
most other states is something like we have in Indiana, the IHSAA, or
Indiana High School _Athletic_ Association. In Illinois, this
organization is comprised mostly of high school principals, many of whom
are extremely biased toward the athletic programs and who regard the music
program as merely a nuissance. However, they feel that they must continue
to govern the music program as well, or otherwise the music educators
might make decisions which, while good for students and for the music
program, might not be under the thumb of the principals. The IHSA has, or
had, a "music advisory committee," which consisted of four or five
individuals, all of whom taught in suburban Chicago, in some of the most
affluent school districts in the nation. They essentially set up the
music activities in such a way that they served fairly well those
upper-class schools, but the members of the committee had no idea what was
going on in the rest of the state, especially the rural southern portions.

There were three different, competing systems of music competitions - one
run by the IHSA for high school students, one run by the ISBDA (Illinois
State Band Directors Association) for elementary students only (because
the IHSA wouldn't let anyone touch their high-school level contest), and
then, the IESA (Illinois Elementary School Association - another
organization of administrators, most of whom were failed teachers or
coaches) decided that they would institute their own contest to compete
with the ISBDA's contest for elementary school students. If the principal
of a certain school was a member or sat on the governing board of the
IESA, it was a certainty that students from that school who participated
in interscholastic music activities would have to go to the one run by
IESA. And, each contest structure had their own rules, regulations,
methods, etc. One had only a single level of competition, another had two
levels, and the IESA contests, when they began, had _three_ levels. Why?
Because the basketball tournaments had three levels. The Illinois Music
Educator's Association had essentially no influence in any of this, being
mostly ineffectual because the groups which governed school activities, in
their arrogance, couldn't bring themselves to believe that the music
educators could possibly know as much as they, the principals, about what
was good for music students.

Music and most other educational activities in Illinois have suffered for
years from this archaic, politically-motivated system, and Illinois
students and citizens have paid the price. The miracle is that any good
music programs at all can exist under such a heavy burden of
administrative incompetence.

There, that felt pretty good! I couldn't say all those things when I was
teaching there, but I feel certain that they are truthful.

So, Illinois educators, have things improved since I taught there?

Ed Lacy
Dr. Edwin Lacy University of Evansville
Professor of Music 1800 Lincoln Avenue
Evansville, IN 47722 (812)479-2754

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