So Long "Mozart Effect"

Interesting story in the Boston Globe this week about how Harvard researchers have shown that the celebrated "Mozart effect" isn't provable. Listening to lots of Mozart and other music won't make a kid "smarter" in any objective sense.

Says researcher Samuel Mehr:
We teach [students] great authors because those great authors are important. There's no reason to justify music education on any other basis than its intrinsic merits. We have our Dante, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare, and they are Bach, Duke Ellington, and Benjamin Britten.
I've always felt it was a strategic mistake to make the case for the arts based on supposed pragmatic benefits. And now that those benefits are seen as chimerical, what will become of the arts funding apportioned because of the "makes you smarter" argument?

The same pitfall holds for two other sociopolitical issues with medical or scientific overtones: homosexuality and marijuana. Arguing for acceptance and equal rights for gay people on the basis of "the gay gene" is just another way of saying that they are screwed up, but just can't help it. The real point is that consenting adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want and shouldn't be denied rights on that basis. And what if the gay gene exists? Would we eliminate it if we could? To be clear: I'm not saying people aren't "born that way." I'm saying it doesn't matter.

Similarly, arguing for the legalization of medical marijuana misses the point that, again, adults should be able to do what they want as long as they don't harm others. The medical angle is a thin rationale that just keeps us from becoming grown ups.


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