The apostle Paul instructs us to set our minds on that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely; we are to meditate on those things which are of good report, virtuous, or praiseworthy. As a classical and Christian school, we have particular duties in this regard; we have been entrusted by our school parents with the responsibility to help train and discipline the minds of their children. We understand that the loveliness and nobility enjoined by the apostle involve more than just “spiritual” truths, and that our duty as a school includes the discipline of aesthetic education.
We therefore affirm that the triune God contains within Himself all ultimate loveliness and beauty. As His creatures, therefore, we are to serve and worship Him in all that we do in the beauty of holiness. He has created us in His own image, and requires us to strive to imitate Him in all that we do, and this includes the duty of understanding our responsibilities of appreciating and creating objects of loveliness.
In the education we provide, we therefore deny all forms of aesthetic relativism. At the same time, we affirm our limitations as creatures. This means that in any work of art containing true beauty, only God knows exhaustively all that is beautiful about the work, while we see the beauty only partially. Because different human observers see different “partialities,” this creates an illusion of subjectivity. Because our vision of the beautiful must necessarily be partial, we seek to instruct our students to make all aesthetic judgments in humility. At the same time, we want to train them on their responsibility to make grounded and informed aesthetic judgments, rejecting all forms of principled ugliness or aesthetic nihilism.
We seek to teach the importance of aesthetic standards in all activities associated with the school, striving for that form of excellence suitable to each activity. This obviously includes a strong emphasis throughout our curriculum on the fine arts — music, painting, sculpture, drama, poetry — with the attendant responsibilities of the students including study, meditation, and memorization. But our emphasis on aesthetics also extends to more mundane matters — the cleanliness and decoration of classrooms, student dress, athletic competition, handwriting, etc. In all this, we aim to teach our students the reasons for what we require, and not just impose the bare requirement. As a Christian school we want to particularly avoid all forms of pious or traditional kitsch — aesthetic frauds which can evoke a sentimental and superficial aesthetic response.
The standards we use in determining what we consider to be aesthetically valuable include, but are not limited to, conformity to the standards of Scripture, historical durability and the approval of many minds over generations, a balance of complexity and simplicity, dignity, metaphorical strength, harmony, subtlety, the power to evoke love of truth and goodness, the art of concealing art, acuity or craftsmanship, an ability to work against standards while honoring and employing them, avoidance of formulaic cliches and wisdom.