Li'l Wayne Music, SAT scores, and Success in Life

Autism SpeaksI always bother myself with the thought that many of my students won't be able to go to college. I believe that their disabilities are a culprit, but I wanted to know if there are other factors that aggravate the situation.

In one of my online moments, I bumped into a research conducted by California Tech PhD student Virgil Griffith. He collected favorite music of college students using their universities' Network Statistics page on Facebook. Then he looked at the average SAT/ACT score from CollegeBoard for students attending every college. Critics of the study claim that it is 'unscientific' because of the method and the source (Facebook), but I found it to be an essential source of understanding of how my students behave, what kinds of music they listen to, and the effect of this music in their struggle toward educational success.

In the study, Griffith included 133 most favorite music that appeared on Facebook and considered a variety of genre, including Hip Hop, R & B, Christian, Emo, Jazz, Pop, Alternative, Rock, Country, Metal, Classic Rock, and Indie. Then he correlated musical tastes of students with SAT scores. In the end, he generated a result which he calls "dumbitude" and "smartitude".

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The study showed that students who listen to Beethoven type of music demonstrated the highest scores while those who voted Li'l Wayne music as their favorite registered the lowest.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there are interesting discoveries [in Griffith's research] that merit our attention:

 "For example, the favorite musician of the smartest students was Beethoven, with an average SAT score of 1371. Also on the "smart" end of the scale were Sufjan Stevens (1260), Counting Crows (1247), and Radiohead (1220). And sadly for Lil Wayne, enjoying his music was associated with being the dumbest, with an average SAT score of 889."

What's in Li'l Wayne's music? Typically, his hip hop music contains contractions, new words that are never found in any circulated dictionary, profanity, alcohol, drugs, and sex. For the younger audience, this is not only a threat. It can establish a vicious cycle that leads to stagnation.

What is its implication to education? Students' habits of listening to their preferred music can significantly affect their journey to educational success.

I find it ridiculous to think that classroom teachers can twist an existing reality about students' music preferences. However, for teachers in the primary and intermediate grades, there is still something that could be done. Here are my takeaways:

  • introduce positively influential music early on and integrate them into play (pre-K to 2) and classroom learning (3 to 5)
  • explain to students why listening to good music makes them successful in the future
  • integrate literature genre with the aid of good music
  • introduce classroom activities that will enable students to appreciate "good music," such as group reports, poster presentations, listening activities, and introduction of alternative options to what students consider to be their 'favorite music'
  • establish a strong home-school relationship and monitor what students are listening and the television programs they are watching
  • hold parents nights and PTA sessions that cover a discussion of how parents strictly enforce parental control over TV programs and music being played at home
  • strengthen firewall mechanisms in the school setting in order to filter music, videos, and download of music that are not suitable for younger children   

The Wall Street Journal