The Peltzman Effect and Music Education 

In the drafts folder of my email I keep a file called, "Things to Think About." This folder is filled with half baked thoughts, unanswered questions, and snippets of information that intrigue me. As a I come across an unresolved thought, unique concept or incomplete idea, I place it there to be visited later when I have the time or inclination to resolve it on a deeper level.

"Things to Think About." is where I go when I want to stretch my mind and challenge my critical thinking skills. It's a space to "day dream" and think during long and late night plane flights, which I guess not not really "day" dreaming. It's not a place for answers, but rather a place for questions. Granted, the "drafts" folder of my inbox is an odd place to keep such a thing, until you realize the things that I am keeping are quite odd itself.

Last night, as a diversion from the mundane work of preparing my business taxes, I opened up the folder and began to read the contents. In an effort to revisit them anew, I went to the oldest document in the file and there it was... The Peltzman Effect and Music Education. YEEEESSSSS! I have NO IDEA why I put this here, but whatever it is has to be WAY better than working on my taxes, so I read on...

The Peltzman Effect is the hypothesized tendency of people to react to a safety regulation by increasing other risky behavior, offsetting some or all of the benefit of the regulation.(source: Wikipedia) The Peltzman Effect theorizes about unintended and opposite consequences created through new safety regulations. For instance, the unintended effect of creating safer cars is that drivers feel less at risk and drive in more unsafe ways. In short, by making cars safer, we made drivers less safe.

As a part of my long ago and forgotten contemplation, I wondered about the Peltzman Effect and unintended consequences in music education.

For instance, is it possible that the unintended consequences of:

  • having easier access to tuning devices has made students play more out of tune because they rely on technology and not their ears?
  • higher the ratings at festival lead to greater dissatisfaction in teaching and student learning? In an effort to make sure the literature was attainable, teachers might choose less rigorous literature or rehearse it beyond the point where it is enjoyable for either the teacher or students.
  • advocacy efforts are actually endangering music education by making it seem more fragile than it is and seemingly less important to students and parents?
  • having a sizable staff as it minimizes student development by impeding the growth of the student leadership?
  • having better performing ensembles as it causes more students to quit due to increased rehearsal/performance/practice demands.

Keep in mind, in all of Peltzman's research, he never stated that the bad outweighed the good, just that simple and obvious well intentioned acts might have unforeseen and unintended consequences.

Me? I am a walking Peltzman experiment. My ability to achieve unintended consequences or unexpected results is UNCANNY! You have no idea how often I say the wrong thing in an attempt to do what it right. Or how many times I have made the wrong decision, even when I have the right information. Truly, my initial instincts are so consistently wrong that I truly have grown accustomed to listening to my gut, and then doing the exact opposite.

I would elaborate, but the Peltzman Effect would suggest that the more I write, the less you read. So what do you say we forget this e-zine ever existed and we stick this one back in my "drafts" folder for a while longer while I think about it?

After all, Petzman might agree that absence makes the heart grow fonder...

So go back to what you were doing, pretend I was never here, and have a HORRIBLE week! (I totally Peltzered that!)