Our Cozy Time Machines

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In the May 2014 issue of "Old Roads Magazine," my brother, a musicology graduate from Stanford University, wrote an article on traditional versus contemporary music, specifically in terms of how we sing in church, or how we teach music in our schools or homes. Like the old Microsoft/Apple debates, we enjoy taking sides. Bach or the Beatles? Mozart or Messiaen? Taverner or Taylor Swift? And sometimes, the more conservative among us can get pretty miffed that pop music is just going to the dogs and that these darn kids today don't even know who Beethoven was.

True. A big problem. But there's a bigger problem than bad music: and that's getting miffed about it. Instead, we should act. Specifically, we should counter bad music by composing quality music for today, and not just by putting Bach on playlist-repeat.

And more broadly (cue segue), we should embrace this action plan in classical education as a whole as we seek to transform the ills of our culture. Act, don't react. Create, don't retract.

Classical education easily and naturally retracts. Into the past it goes, like a turtle into its shell. And no wonder: we recognize the godless, cultural malaise our children face, we bemoan the abysmal math and literacy scores our nation regularly chokes up, and we therefore retreat to the Renaissance. We jump into our safe and cozy time machines and head for the pristine past. We teach Latin, logic, philosophy, and classical literature -- and then we expect our kids to positively influence culture today.

Ain't gonna happen. If we are living in the past, we'll alienate our kids (who can't help but live in the present, bless their hearts). Unless we bring the treasures of the past into the present, they will be useless. We must use the past as a tool for the future. We must teach our children to be creators in the present for today. We are created to create, and so we must teach our children to compose, write, research, solve, and discover for today's world. That is how they will best glorify God, and that is how classical Christian education will truly transform culture, one generation at a time.