The Value of Beauty and Aesthetics in Education

“The serious pursuit of beauty, for both children and adults, has a delightfully amplifying effect on all other areas of life. It makes us better at everything else, whether that be theology, engineering, homemaking, or plumbing. The connection here is quite mysterious, but it’s often quite radical. Poetry, music, and fiction can utterly transform the coldest logician, computer programmer, or colonel into someone with a soul.”

~Doug Wilson, Angels in the Architecture

Spencerian Cursive

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Those curves, though.

Spencerian script was the standard in America between 1850 and 1925. If you have ever wanted to make your handwriting more beautiful, Spencerian script is, in my opinion, more lovely than modern American cursive. And, the theory book and practice books are still in print!

Uncomfortable Immanence

Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age is a significant work on modern secularism. James K.A. Smith writes a helpful condensation and commentary in How (Not) To Be Secular. Smith reflects on our discomfort with pure materialism:

“There is a fundamental discomfort with materialism and its attendant reductionism that generates a resistance and unwillingness to settle for the closed account of materialism…Taylor identifies three ‘fields’ of cross-pressures to which he will keep returning in chapter 16:

  1. Agency: ‘the sense that we aren’t just determined, that we are active, building, creating, shaping agents’;
  2. Ethics: ‘we have higher spiritual/ethical motives’ that don’t reduce to biological instinct or ‘base’ drives; and
  3. Aesthetics: ‘Art, Nature moves us’ because of a sense of meaning; these are not just differential responses to pleasure.”

~Smith, p. 104

One example I have seen of #3 is John Gray’s The Silence of the Animals. Since we and the world are temporary, susceptible to decay and death, beauty is a shimmering vapor issuing from the pit of entropic death. Is that really all there is to beauty, or does beauty whisper to us that we are haunted by transcendence?