When was the last time you attended an art museum, a jazz concert, a ballet, or a play? If you said years, you wouldn’t be alone. Sadly, across the U.S., the appreciation of fine arts has declined in the last couple of decades described in a Forbes article, “Do the Fine Arts Have a Future? According to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), only 33% of Americans attended a “benchmark” cultural event even once in 2012—down from 39% in 2002 and 41% in 1992. These cultural events include attending art museums, musicals, classical music concerts, non-musical plays, jazz concerts, ballet performances and operas.
So why the decline in art appreciation? It could be due to our culture being drenched in technology, either being entertained by YouTube videos or “appreciating” art by looking at the Mona Lisa from their handheld screen instead of seeing it in person. Schools have been moving away from a liberal arts focus and more towards a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) focus. But I believe teaching and showing our children and ourselves this lost art has multiple benefits including cultural education, historical education, communication skills, insights into other fields of study, and inspiration and motivation to create.
Did you know that the Sistine Chapel was painted by someone who would not call himself a painter by profession? He referred to himself as a sculptor. Pope Julius II, as head of the church in Rome recognized the amazing talents of Michelangelo Buonarroti and commissioned him to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. With only a short apprenticeship several years prior with painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, Michelangelo used a special technique called fresco painting. His assistants applied plaster to a section of the ceiling. Then the masterpieces were painted directly into the wet plaster. Over 500 years later, students of all ages can appreciate the beauty of Michelangelo’s fresco paintings, proving unique and beautiful art can transcend multiple generations.
Art appreciation allows students to learn about other cultures and see a glimpse of history. Painters, sculptors, and other types of artists are influenced by their own life circumstances as well as the circumstances and technology around them as they are creating art. For example, the Sistine Chapel paintings were completed during a time in history called the Renaissance at a time in church history called the Reformation. Imagine how seeing paintings of the time of the Renaissance can enhance studying other aspects of the Renaissance era.
Art appreciation improves communication. I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Artists, since the beginning of time, have been communicating information through their pictures. Students who study artwork together strengthen their own communication abilities because the pictures stimulate emotional feelings which then are translated into conversations. For example, read a few of the reviews on trip advisor, to understand the emotional impact the Sistine chapel has on vacationers.
A professor of art crime named Noah Charney pointed out that art appreciation provides additional insight into other fields of study such as sociology, geometry, science, physics, engineering, and politics to name just a few. Mr. Charney mentioned in his article “The Art of Learning: Why Art History Might Be the Most Important Subject You Could Study Today,” that the preparation of paint is an example of chemistry. Look closely at the method of fresco painting and this certainly shows a lesson in chemistry. Geometry explains how some paintings look more harmonious. Take a second look at Michelangelo’s paintings to see that the figures almost look like sculptures. Can you imagine which branch of science helps explain this phenomenon?
Art appreciation inspires and motivates us to create. Heritage Oak School in Tehachapi, California, also believes in the benefits of art appreciation. Not only does the school provide field trips to the Bakersfield Symphony and the Getty Museum, for example, they also provide a dedicated art appreciation curriculum called “Meet the Masters.” Students hear stories about famous artists, view their artwork, and have a chance to create their own masterpiece inspired by what they learned. The enthusiasm created in these classes motivates them to use their imagination to design something of their own and also appreciate art when seen in person. My daughter was in second grade when she learned about Michelangelo. Our family had an opportunity to visit Rome and see the Sistine Chapel. Because she had learned so much in her art appreciation classes, she was intensely excited to be where history had occurred over 500 years previously.
In our technologically advanced age, the clamor of Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and Google threatens to nudge out the wellsprings of our culture: its rich literary history. When once people turned to books to “escape,” relax, or be entertained, people now turn on the T.V. or scroll through social media on their phones. Before our kids get lost in this technology focused world, let’s bring them back to a love of literature we once knew.
Is my child smart? This is probably a question that most of us as parents ask ourselves at some point. But let’s admit it, this is a loaded question! We hope and pray that our child is “smart” because we often feel it bodes well for their future success and it can make us feel successful as their parents. However, as a clinical psychologist who tests both children and adults, I can say that issues of intelligence/IQ are far more complex than just an IQ number.
If you’re a parent considering whether to send your child to a private school, you’ve undoubtedly looked into the school’s curriculum and compared it to that of public schools. One question that comes to most parents minds: How will this particular school impact my child’s future career path? And like most parents these days, you’ve probably also heard a lot about the push for students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?: Part 2
In our first part of this blog series a couple weeks ago, we discussed the background and history of Halloween. This laid the foundation of this two part discussion and seeing how it was originally intended helped us gain perspective on the holiday. From our research, we discovered what originally started out as as a pagan holiday in the land of the Celts, turned into something positive through Christian missionaries sharing the gospel with the Druids.
Fall is now upon us and Halloween is just around the corner. Scary decorations catch your eye in the store, popular character costumes fill the racks, and kids are talking at school about what they want to dress up as. But for many Christians, this is a difficult holiday to deal with. Is it honoring to God to celebrate Halloween? Is it an evil holiday that we should avoid? Is it something that we should celebrate? Is it something we should be extremely cautious about? Hopefully this two part series will provide some information and guidance so that you can make an informed decision for your family. And of course, listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God on this matter will guide you to the right decision.
Creating Consistency at Home & School
Human beings are creatures of habit and don’t do well with change. Think about those adolescent years when you were going through numerous changes and how awkward life seemed. Even as adults, once we are established in our family, daily work schedule, and hobbies, we tend to get comfortable in our lives and can have significant emotional events when presented with changes like moving or changing jobs, or even with less-consequential events like trying out a new church. Even worse, have you ever had a job where you had multiple managers or bosses with wildly different expectations and the confusion that can cause?
Just as adults get used to a routine, so do children. One of the challenges of parenting, particularly in young children, is developing a structured routine that encompasses all of the daily tasks and activities a child needs during development.
Once a routine is established, however, ask any parent and they’ll tell you how much easier life is, particularly at bed time. If a child knows that they eat dinner, take a bath, read a book, and brush their teeth before bed, those activities help prepare their mind for sleep. It’s painfully obvious how disastrous a botched routine can be when parents come home to the babysitter and wide-awake or crying children. As humans, we all need consistency.
So too should be our approach to school and parent-involvement in school, especially when it comes to our expectations of the students. At Heritage Oak School, maintaining a level of consistency between parents and teachers is so important that new parents are required to take a parenting class.
A parenting class might sound ridiculous or unnecessary but it shouldn’t scare parents of prospective students away from the school. On the contrary, the class encourages parents with the knowledge that raising school-aged children is a team effort with teachers and parents working together for the betterment of the students. Not only does this class teach biblical techniques for parenting, but enforces the idea that parents play a vital role in a child’s education.
To further the idea of expectations, teachers are the leaders in the classroom and set the tone and the standards that students should follow. As Proverbs 22:6 states, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
For parent classroom aides, it’s important to get on the same page as the teacher to provide a seamless environment for the students. For teachers with multiple parent helpers throughout the week, it is especially critical to make sure that all of the different parents are maintaining a consistent standard from day to day. Think back to the example of two bosses with different expectations. Can you imagine being a student and having one set of standards on Monday, another on Tuesday, and so on throughout the week? You’d feel extremely frustrated!
Heritage Oak also holds regular meetings for all of the parents called the Parent Academy. One goal of the meetings is to present parents with a topic that we can all work on with our kids. Past topics include things like how to handle social media use with our kids. The idea is that a partnership is established between the school and parents so we can address different situations that may arise in life with the same correct solution, giving our children consistency to guide them down the right path.
I talked a lot about having consistency and not subjecting students to unnecessary change. That isn’t to say that all change is bad. In fact, being able to adapt to change and stress is good. The important thing, though, is that we should maintain consistent expectations and standards for our children to help them succeed, and do it in a way that reflects God’s love!
Will a Christian Education Hinder an Elite College Acceptance?
A pressing concern of parents considering a private Christian grammar and high school is whether attending this type of school will hurt their children’s chances of elite private college admission to schools such as Yale, Harvard, Berkeley or a military Service Academy. In fact, though not true, the myth that attending public school with all of its extracurricular activities and AP classes increases the chances of elite university admission continues to be propagated. Let’s dispel this common myth. Yale’s entering class of 2021 included 37% who attended a non public school with 7% of those who attended a religious school. Despite only educating 10% of US high school students, private schools accounted for almost 40% of Yale students! Let’s break down why private Christian schools may raise students’ education prospects.
Elite colleges and universities have very rigorous academic standards but they also seek candidates with similar academic achievements. 96% of entering Yale students were in the top 10% of their graduating public or private high school class. The majority had SAT scores greater than 750 and ACT scores greater than 32. Turning to my Alma Mater, the United States Air Force Academy, the majority of students were in the top 10% of their class and had ACT scores greater than 30 and SAT scores greater than 650. From these quick facts, we discover the majority of students were top ACT/SAT performers and were in their class’ top percentiles.
But do private Christian schools help students accomplish these outcomes? A Canadian research study following over 7000 15 year olds through age 23, found that private high school students scored 8-9% higher on standardized tests (like the ACT and SAT). From this, attending a private school makes for higher test scores. The same study demonstrated that private high school students were more likely to complete college in 4 years than their public high school peers (35% to 21%). While parental wealth and educational attainment partially explain the differences, the researchers noted that surrounding children with similar peers likely raised their educational prospects. Private schools tend to have smaller class sizes, making it easier for high performing students to attain higher class ranks. So yes, for high performing students, attending private schools does increase the likelihood of elite university admission.
At my private Christian school, Redwood Christian, most of the 67 graduating students attended college. My best friend went to UC Berkeley and attended the Air Force Academy. From the same school, years later, among other elite university admissions, two other individuals attended the Air Force Academy. Importantly, this school is not known as a ‘pipeline’ school for attendance to elite universities, but like Heritage Oak School and other affiliated Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) schools, this school’s rigorous academics and low teacher to student ratios facilitated elite admission success.
But my attendance at a private Christian School went far beyond mere academic preparation. More important than this preparation, was the assistance Redwood Christian provided to build a comprehensive Biblical worldview. In a university Biology class, a professor stated his goal was to teach us to “compartmentalize” our faith by essentially ignoring it when a contradiction with established “science” arose. In other words, science held the keys to ultimate truth and all other truth, including the revealed word of Scripture, was subordinate (and could be ignored). I realized then the superiority of the Biblical worldview’s unity of knowledge, theology and philosophy to a schizophrenic compartmentalization championed by this professor. I am confident my Christian education enabled my effective and winsome defense of Christianity throughout my college years. My gratitude to Redwood Christian for preparing me to face worldview challenges extends to this day.
In summary, admission to elite colleges and universities is predicated on rigorous academic achievements such as test scores and class rank. Based on demographics, attending a private school in no way hurts a student’s chances (and likely helps it). For a variety of reasons, test scores and class rank tend to be higher for attendees at private schools. Finally, while elite college preparation is important, being prepared to defend one’s worldview is of much greater and lasting worth.
- Facts and Studies. Council for American Private Education. Accessed from http://www.capenet.org/facts.html on 16 Sept 2018
- Yale College Class of 2021 First year class profile. Yale University. Accessed from https://admissions.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/class_profile_2021_final.pdf on 16 Sept 2018.
- Demographic Profile of the class of 2021. United States Air Force Academy. Accessed from http://www.neoafapa.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/2021_-_Demographic_Profiles.224160126.pdf on 16 Sept 2018.
- Frenette, M. and P. Chan. 2015. Academic Outcome of Public and Private High School Students: What Lies Behind the Differences? Accessed from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/ pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2015367-eng.htm on 16 Sept 2018.