The Arts and Education

Teaching Our Kids the Language of Beauty

In education, we know that there is more to learning than grades and assignments. Our success in teaching is ultimately measured in the part we’ve played to inspire a young person to steward who God made them to be. Sometimes that happens with dates in history or algorithms. Sometimes it happens with a canvas or on stage.

Many art, theater, and music programs are being cut from education budgets. With a million competing priorities, something is inevitably going to take the hit. But the arts are an essential part of the created world. They have the ability to reflect God and point us to Him.

So what are the implications of an education that doesn’t include the arts? Do they have a legitimate part to play in the fundamentals of education?

Creating Creators

Imagine a world where Bach or Andrew Lloyd Weber never composed music. Imagine one where people like Wendell Berry and C.S. Lewis never recorded their thoughts or Monet never picked up a brush.

God could have created a world without beauty. Flowers could have been without smell and birds without songs. Sunrises could have been grey and caterpillars could have simply remained furry worms their whole lives. But that’s not the world we’re a part of. Art is the language of creation. It’s all around us, on grand scales and in intricate details. To know God is to experience beauty.

And we are created in that image.

The arts have a unique ability to connect students with their ability to create something from nothing. They give students the opportunity to find inspiration and to reflect themselves in their work. It’s much like what God did on the 6th day.

The more we can help students connect with their own potential for creating, the more they can experience the God who created them.

Defining Beauty

Is there something that we can all agree is beautiful, no matter who we are? Perhaps Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring? Maybe Niagara Falls or sunsets or starry nights? What about babies? All babies? Even the ones that…well…never mind.

The question remains: Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? If so, where does our standard for beauty come from?

The short answer is that our standard for beauty is going to come from whatever voice is loudest in our lives. Whatever defines us is also going to define our standards.

Beauty and Learning

To try to separate God from beauty would be to try to separate wet from water. The arts are essential to education. They play a fundamental role in helping us understand beauty. They connect us with the God who creates. They shape our standards while they also reflect them.

When it comes to teaching, we have a responsibility to lead students in this conversation. Their answer to the question, "What is beauty?" is being shaped at this very moment. We need to give them the perspective on the world around them that acknowledges God as the Originator and Source of beauty.

And when we do that, we can help them take part in the song and dance of creating.