Francis Schaeffer is well-known for his book and video series “How Should We Then Live,” in which he describes the ebb and flow of culture over the centuries. And, 30 years later, it is still a profound work of literature. Some would argue that Schaeffer was prophetic in his presuppositional theological treatise, pointing to the apex of human existence as personal peace and affluence, leading to the fall of Western thought and culture. But, there was a great deal more to Schaeffer’s work, and one exceptional element of his tome describes how art continues to be a reflection of culture as a whole.
Art in all of its forms is a necessary element of human existence, and it is particularly critical in the lives of our children. Christian conservatives often find themselves in a love-hate relationship with the so-called secular arts community because, after all, art is of the devil, isn’t it? At least, that’s what some self-absorbed televangelist told us.
Rather than debating the existence of an alleged conspiracy to warp the minds and capture the souls of our children through the creative arts, let’s explore why conservatives should embrace funding the arts in public schools, and this early on in childhood education.
Art is designed to stimulate emotions, and that is a good thing. We live in a world that is at times frightening for both children and adults alike, and not being able to express those emotions creates unhealthy human beings. Art can provide an outlet for our children to express their emotions.
Art is both individual-geared and corporate, a good team-building experience. School plays are more than just an opportunity for Patty Perfect to show off her singing talent and her mother’s sewing skills: They give our children a view of how people can work together and produce something that inspires and entertains.
Art is subjective and is not a win-lose proposition. Our culture is dominated by the lust for victory in every aspect of our lives, and art can serve as a sanctuary for our children, an exercise in individuality without competitive impulses.
Contrary to popular belief, music is an art form, and a study released in March of 2006 conducted in part by Rutgers showed that Baroque music played during math class actually helped children retain more information and ” God forbid ” enjoy the class.
On a deeply personal note, my son struggled with a form of autism, and I am convinced that through the efforts of Bettie Shadoan at Monroe Elementary School, he is the incredible young man he is today. Ms. Shadoan incorporated numerous forms of art into her special education class, and although my son’s fine motor skills always will be problematic, his participation in plays, painting and music exercises contributed to his amazing development. Today, some five years later, he has won his school’s spelling bee and has confidence he otherwise wouldn’t possess.
Conservatives should not fear funding the arts in our public schools, but rather, eagerly support the arts. We have seen how the arts can play a part in touching the very heart of the human existence, and can be used to celebrate all that is good in the world and underscore and bring light to that which is evil. Isn’t that the core of Schaeffer’s supposition?
Black is host of WILD Oklahoma radio and television, the recipient of the 2007 Oklahoma Rifle Association’s Mike McCarville Media Award and a consultant living in Edmond.