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Beauty Will Save Liberty Scholars

Beauty Will Save Liberty Scholars
Elizabeth Barber, Board of Directors Vice President

 

If the too obvious, so straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light—yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three. And in that case it was not a slip of the tongue for Dostoevsky to say that “Beauty will save the world,” but a prophecy.
 
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Beauty Will Save the World: The Nobel Lecture on Literature”
 
At Liberty Common School, the educational effort to instill knowledge and virtue in the hearts and minds of students unites us. Yet this quote by Solzhenitsyn also challenges us to remember an essential component of such an education—to nourish the soul on the beautiful. Beauty, he argues, has the power to redeem.
 
The role of beauty is to attract and draw us toward that which is good and true. In fact, the Greek word for beauty, kallos, is understood to be etymologically related to the verb kalein meaning “to call.” Beauty indeed calls or beckons us to love what is lovely. Such a compelling force must be approached with reverence and awe—students must be able to discern the truly beautiful from mere imposters.
 
Liberty scholars are acquainted with beauty through the required study of metaphor and poetry in English classes. They know the ordered beauty of a Latin maxim and a balanced mathematical equation. They are further inclined toward beauty through rich fine-arts electives which require observation, contemplation, and practice of aesthetic forms. In fact, thanks in large part to the passion, depth of knowledge, and skillful pedagogical practices of the fine-arts faculty, these electives are perennial student favorites.
 
Beginning with the Class of 2028, Liberty Common High School graduates will be required to have completed 10 credits of fine arts (satisfied by art and/or music electives of their choosing). This proposal, originally the effort of English Department faculty member Jeremy Tullius in collaboration with school administration, was enthusiastically supported and advanced by the school’s Academic Advisory Committee. After thorough vetting, it was ultimately adopted in a unanimous vote by the LCS Board of Directors. The message is clear: it is imperative to incline Liberty scholars toward beauty.
 
Establishing a fine-arts component to the high-school’s graduation requirements extends the school’s emphasis beyond k-8 on what has become known as mos maiorum or “in the tradition of our ancestors.” The deepest roots of our inherited intellectual tradition—art, music, physical education, Latin, etc.—are included in this category. Headmaster Schaffer urges us, “Think of mos maiorum courses as the hub from which the instructional spokes of LCS radiate; or, those established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.” Mos maiorum at Liberty effectively fosters cross-curricular coordination of disciplines.
 
The adoption of this new LCHS graduation requirement does not impact the total number of credits required for graduation since the general-elective requirement has been reduced from 35 to 25 credits to account for this change. Additionally, historical data suggest that 80-85% of Liberty students already elect at least 10 fine-arts credits, so this is not a dramatic change in practice for most students. Rather, establishing this fine-arts graduation requirement is a formal demonstration of Liberty’s unwavering commitment to the classical liberal arts.
 
Aristotle said, “Through self-discipline comes freedom.” Artists know it is only through disciplined hours of faithful practice can they earn the freedom to create something truly beautiful to behold. How appropriate a lesson for students of Liberty to learn through their required coursework.
 
Contemplation and attention to great works of art also transform habits of perception. Artists are trained to perceive subtleties of image and sound that cause them quite literally to see and hear and, thus, think and act differently. Liberty scholars will develop eyes and ears attuned to the wonders of the cosmos and, thereby, become equipped to transform the culture in which they live. Consider, for example, how an understanding of and participation in choral harmony might inform how citizens of our republic ought to live in community.
 
As to the bold claim that “beauty will save the world”? Lest this strike the reader as mere hyperbole, consider the further words of Solzhenitsyn: “the convincingness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable and it forces even an opposing heart to surrender.” 
 
Join us, then, in celebration of this significant milestone and the hope it affords future graduates of Liberty Common High School.

 

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