Beauty: the Aesthetic Leg of the Pedagogical Stool

Greetings from Evangel Classical School!  I trust this finds you looking forward with eagerness to next week and the official start to spring.

Two things before I offer us all an aesthetic challenge.

  • Please remember that we are asking families who are interested in ECS to fill out the Interest Form on the school’s website by Monday April 2.  There is no obligation to enroll nor does this secure a spot in the school for those who do so, but it will help the Committee to make the most informed decisions we can in anticipation of our April 30 follow-up meeting (7:00PM at the Marysville Seventh-Day Adventist Church).  While you’re on the website, spend a bit of time looking around as there are some recent additions (e.g., the page on Kuyperian Calvinism).
  • Regarding these emails, we are modifying how you will receive them.  I suppose this is also your opportunity to opt out, if you wish (though you can do that any time afterward, too).  The new process will enable us to send this information from our website and post the information on the website in one act.

Very simply, you will soon receive a confirmation email from Feedburner.  If you want to continue to get these newsletters, please follow the directions (it involves a click of the mouse to confirm you’re not getting spammed by a machine).  From that point forward, you’ll receive these mailings via a feed rather than from me.

Also, I apologize ahead of time if you receive retroactive mailings of information I’ve already sent.  As we load past newsletters as posts on the site, you may receive them a second time as a feed.  If so, please disregard or re-read at your leisure.

Beauty: the Aesthetic Leg of the Pedagogical Stool

Many schools today – especially Christian schools – keep the pedagogical tools named Truth and Goodness clean and well-oiled.  They are effective and powerful for the development of young minds and the shaping of students’ worldviews and sense of morality.  They are useful for life after high school in the home, workplace, military or college. But by themselves they make for an incomplete education.

Perhaps it’s better to think of a pedagogical stool with three legs named Truth, Goodness and Beauty.  In most schools, the stool is wobbling on two legs because – if it’s present at all – the leg named Beauty is woefully stubby.

And this is a statement that many schools make in a number of ways.  We live in an age of commitment to self, and moral relativism. (For ME, I think that killing a baby in his mother’s womb is okay if his quality of life would be less-than-ideal…for ME. And don’t judge me because I’m entitled to my opinion.)  It’s little surprise then, that aesthetics (or any formal training to better appreciate them) is largely an afterthought…or even a non-thought.  How on earth can we expect our students to appreciate music by dead guys when we have no grounds for telling them it’s worth listening to?

In The Case for Classical Christian Education, Douglas Wilson writes the following:

“The triad we want to urge in classical Christian education is truth, goodness, and beauty.  When it comes to aesthetic issues, the Christian world is horribly compromised.   One of the tasks of the Christian school is to help bring us out of this relativism by teaching students to love that which is lovely – in music, in painting, in poetry, in drama and in dress.  Whatever is lovely, Paul says, think on this” (187).

To say that an appreciation for beauty is neglected in the modern educational system is a gross understatement.  Is it any wonder that the budgetary axe falls at the root of the Tree of Fine Arts when those who are making the decisions tend to have little appreciation for the arts themselves?  The statement we are making with our checkbooks is that there is greater value in a touchdown then a downbeat, and and greater value in the applause of fans gathered in a gymnasium than a concert hall.  Students’ test scores continue to drop, and we wonder why.  After all, we’re educating our students with a strong emphasis on truth and goodness, right?  What more could there possibly be?

Where does this mentality come from?  Well, it should hardly come as a surprise.  Our society does not appreciate beauty like it used to.  Fine musicians have to play in multiple ensembles just to make ends meet; artists are stereotypically poor; Hip Hop artists that you’ve never heard of make more money in a night than Bach made in his lifetime…and 300 years from now they’ll still be listening to Bach (maybe not, at this rate!), while it’s doubtful that Lil’ Kim or Flo Rida will top many playlists (and yes, I had to look up those names).

Also from The Case, Wilson observes the following regarding clothing:

“Of course, we should dress for comfort, but the biblical view is that we should also dress for the comfort of others.  Today our natural tendency is to dress to suit ourselves.  In another era, students would dress to make themselves presentable.  Now students want to dress to make themselves at ease.  The former generations thought of others; we now insist on putting ourselves first” (186).

This is pretty indicting, but it also resonates with our own personal experience.  The same students who will proudly don a basketball uniform will insist that the wearing of a school uniform strips them of their right to express their individuality.

We are committed to growing in our students a sense of solidarity and a commitment to something greater than themselves in their attire.  As best we are able, we are committed to engendering an appreciation for beauty, whether in the aesthetics of our facilities or in formal musical training in the elementary classroom.  Our students won’t just sing a lot, we want to help them be able to read vocal music early in the grammar years.

And there’s more that we will do, if God wills.  But it’s not because we’ve arrived (we haven’t actually left yet), it’s because we’re committed to the leg of the pedagogical stool that many of our neighboring public schools have whittled to a nub.

Risus est bellum!