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How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119: 9-11.
For our annual August preplanning work week, I always select a scriptural passage that will serve as our theme for the school year. Thisl year our passage is Psalm 119: 9-19 and 169-176, with the theme of “Nurturing People of the Word in an Image-Based Culture.” Our students – your children – are the first generation in human history to turn from being a word-based people to becoming image-based. The implications, both intellectual and theological, are many. As a Christ-centered classical school, we desire and pray that our students, all created in the image of God, the God of the Word, will develop hearts and minds that cherish words and, principally, God’s Word. As we treasure up the Word of God in our hearts, the overflow of our own words should reflect what is in our hearts.
As a part of these aspirations to be people of the word, what we say, what we write, and what we read is vitally and often even eternally important. Reading is key to classical education’s goal of developing a pattern of lifelong learning in our students. We want our students to become avid, lifelong readers, not of just anything, but rather of great literature and books having redemptive value. I will return to these themes throughout the 2017-2018 academic year. For now, I will highlight a few recent reads that I recommend highly to all Caldwell parents.
From my personal summer list come two books that I strongly encourage every parent at Caldwell to read: How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success (Julie Lythcott-Haines) and The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (Ben Sasse). Run – don’t walk – to your nearest bookstore or Amazon.com, get these two books, and read them this fall. They are easy accessible and powerfully important for parents and to educators in our role of helping to shape your children, the next generation.
Last spring, our faculty’s professional reading was James K .A. Smith’s You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Smith argues that who and what we love fundamentally shape our worship; sadly, our hearts can be taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we are made. Smith challenges readers with a contentious question: Do we love what we think we love? This is a powerful little book that I enthusiastically endorse.
This summer our faculty read Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Dreher’s book has been in the press, both mainstream and Christian, quite a bit over the past six months since its release, creating much conversation and debate within the Christian community. While we may not agree with all of Dreher’s assertions, it is quite provocative with regard to the issues Christians are currently facing.
Finally, one of the books I am presently reading (and that the rest of the faculty and staff will read together this fall) is Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. Though I am just three chapters in, I can already endorse this book to our entire community. It fits in wonderfully with our theme for the school year and is so very appropriate for us first as Christians and secondarily as those who appreciate a very biblical and classical view of words. Again, it’s a book that’s easily accessible while also a powerful read for us all.
Of course I read another Winston Churchill biography over the summer. And I read several other good books, including a rather mundane spy novel, and was daily immersed in the most important book there is, God’s Word. Let’s all of us at Caldwell model for our students an enthusiasm for reading – including and especially the reading of Scripture, along with reading that can edify us, stretch us, and help us to become a community that pursues truth, wisdom, and virtue. Please let me know what you are reading and what you recommend.
Head of School
A Poet in Your Pocket: Why Parents (and Students) Need to Read
“Once upon a time in the dead of winter in the Dakota territory,” writes historian David McCullough, “Theodore Roosevelt took off in a makeshift boat downstream on the Little Missouri River in chase of thieves who had stolen his prized rowboat.” McCullough goes on to relate that Roosevelt, after several days, caught up and “got the draw on them with his trusty Winchester, at which point they surrendered.” It’s a great story that gets even better as Roosevelt proceeds to load the thieves into a wagon and the party sets off across the Badlands in pursuit of justice for them. But here, McCullough notes, is the thing he finds most intriguing: young Roosevelt ─ walking 40 snowy miles behind the wagon ─ “rifle at the ready … managed to read Anna Karenina.”
Like McCullough, my mind goes right to this story when I hear people say they don’t have time to read. It’s a jarring contrast to statistics citing that the majority of American male college graduates read ─ at most ─ just one book between college graduation and death, while more than 60 percent of all Americans have never read a single book in their adult life. Alvin Kernan, in The Death of Literature, observes that reading books is no longer regarded as the primary way to gain knowledge in our society. But is a lack of time really to blame?
After all, the average American watches TV about four hours per day, along with spending untold hours each week on social media. The American people are not known as a people who value ideas ─ curious about the world and eager to learn ─ but instead as focused on entertainment-driven, mind-numbing temporary images that are readily available on whatever screen might be handy at the moment. It is not a stretch to say that we live in a culture that values entertainment over knowledge and goodness, politically correct distortions over truth, and filth over righteousness. Those of us in the Christian community often think we are immune to such, but subtle changes have occurred over the past couple of generations and eroded our values, gradually removing us from biblical principles in subtle (or glaring) ways that we seem too busy to notice.
For the sake of entertainment and self-esteem, we have become satisfied with mediocrity and self-centeredness, yet still demand the rewards that hard work, sacrifice, and the search for truth provide. Students and parents often complain about homework loads, yet many of these same students can often recall with vivid detail hours of TV shows they’ve watched during the week, and I hear of the hours spent texting, Snapchatting, and Instagramming friends. We seem paralyzed without these kinds of external stimulation and find life without entertainment unbearable. Entertainment, writes A.W. Tozer in his 1955 work The Root of the Righteous, is not evil in and of itself; the problem arises from “all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live,” noting, “The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin.” Whereas, as Tozer notes, the Church once took a stand against worldly entertainment as “a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing vice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability,” it seems she has more recently given up that fight against the unwieldy god of Entertainment, even joining forces with it in an attempt to manufacture a form of holier entertainment that is nevertheless dangerous in its unintended consequence of “crowding out the serious things of God.”
American libraries are in crisis as the god of Entertainment, electronically omnipresent, robs books of their purpose and value. It murders academic skills and eats away at positive character traits, even compromising family relationships; consider how many families have a TV in every room, which makes it easier for us to avoid interacting with each other. In fact, our obsession as a technology-dependent society pushes us away from all relationships, including our most important one, the one with our Heavenly Father. Let us model for our children and our students by relying on God to “turn [our] eyes from looking at worthless things” to give us life in His ways (Psalm 199:37).
To carry a book with us wherever we go is an old practice that we would do well to adopt. David McCullough reminds us that President John Adams urged his son John Quincy to carry a volume of poetry: “You will never be alone,” he said, “with a poet in your pocket.”
Head of School
At Caldwell Academy, we believe that students rise to expectations. The sinful flesh drifts to the quick and easy; as Alexis de Tocqueville observed in America even in the 1830s, “[W]hat is generally sought in the production of mind is easy pleasure and information without labor” (Democracy in America, Volume II). But as you and I would agree, scarcely anything of great value is achieved without hard work, which means resisting instant gratification ─ a skill that requires discipline to master. The young, who are not always in a position to know what is in their best interest, wrestle against such far-reaching goals and discipline.
By Sam Cox
The classical education tradition has survived dramatic changes in human notions of wisdom and knowledge. The twentieth century saw theology, once considered Queen of the Sciences ─ the discipline that unified all other forms of knowledge by establishing their foundation and meaning ─ dethroned by modernist thinkers enamored of technology and the physical and social sciences.
By Samuel P. Cox
Sometimes our children exasperate us, and for many parents, the middle-school years are the most trying of all. So far I have worked with middle-schoolers for 26 years, and now as the father of two in the Dialectic School (with a third just 15 months away), I understand even more vividly the trials and tribulations of children of all ages, and particularly of that age.
By Samuel P. Cox
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
As we approach the North Carolina presidential primary election, I have been reflecting on our nation’s future course. I have great hope in what we are doing here at Caldwell Academy, and yet I am concerned about the society we are preparing our students to enter. In his important 1976 work How Should We Then Live? Francis Schaeffer writes, “I believe the majority of the silent majority…will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened.”
By Samuel P. Cox
The pursuit of truth is something we hold dear at Caldwell Academy. In that quest, the parallel pursuit of wisdom and virtue becomes vital. We constantly strive for a proper balance between achieving academic excellence and spiritual formation, intellectual inquiry and examination of God’s Truth, intellectual growth and spiritual growth, a classical approach to learning and Christ-centeredness in that approach, college preparation and Kingdom preparation.
By Sam Cox
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
’Tis the season . . . for busyness, rush, overscheduling, stress, and anxiety. I know that in the Cox family, a steady stream of school events, board meetings, church functions, and Christmas parties and concerts has booked my calendar into about six nights per week for three consecutive weeks, each after a full day at work. And while I am grateful for the Internet and next-day delivery, when will I find time for any kind of Christmas shopping? I cannot wait until vacation!
By Dr. Robert Faub
Throughout the history of music, composers and performers have collaborated to create new musical expressions. Whether through friendship, patronage, or commissions, relationship is at the core of some of music history’s greatest creations. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote new music each week for his musicians at Thomaskirche, Leipzig; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his famous clarinet concerto for clarinet virtuoso and friend Anton Stadler; in the 20th century Aaron Copland dedicated his clarinet concerto to Benny Goodman; and many of Stravinsky’s greatest works were ballets written for the Ballets Russes, founded by admirer and friend Serge Diaghilev.
I have had the privilege of having composers write music for me over my 30-year performance career, including works by Arthur Frackenpohl, David Heinick, Andrew Earle Simpson, and Thomas Massella, along with a current work being composed by Greensboro resident Nathan Daughtrey, which I will premiere at a national saxophone conference in Texas next March. In the two years I played with New Century Saxophone Quartet we commissioned more than 20 works, including a whole album of new arrangements on our recording A New Century Christmas (2000, Channel Classics Records).
One of the greatest collaborations of my playing career has been with the Greensboro-based ensemble Red Clay Saxophone Quartet. Currently in our twelfth season, RCSQ has performed dozens of new works, collaborating with student and professional composers and performing throughout the United States. Earlier in November we had the honor of performing at the 50th national conference of the Society of Composers, Inc., an organization dedicated to giving living composers a forum for presenting new works. In 2000, SCI began sponsoring a commission competition for student composers, with the winners receiving a cash prize and a premiere performance at the following year’s national SCI conference. This year Red Clay Saxophone Quartet was chosen as the special featured ensemble for the competition. Beginning last spring, the two student winners corresponded with us as they composed their winning pieces, and on November 13 at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Red Clay gave the premiere performance of these two works, in a concert that included three additional pieces by established SCI composers. The concert was a rousing success, a highlight of a conference filled with new music and exciting performances.
As is the secondary purpose of many academic gatherings, in hallways and around dinner tables, many conversations took place between performers and composers, planting seeds for future collaborations and educational exchanges. For a performer participating in a living art form, the opportunity to hear new music, speak with composers, and meet new friends from around the country — all dedicated to the same goal of creating new and vital art — is an invaluable and life-giving experience. Thank you to the students and administration of Caldwell Academy for giving me the opportunity to participate in this event. May it bear much fruit as I continue to collaborate with some of the best young musicians in Greensboro, my Caldwell Academy students!
** If you would like to hear Red Clay Saxophone Quartet, you are invited to a special Advent concert at First Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, this Sunday, November 29, at 5 o’clock p.m. The concert will be performed in the sanctuary and is free.