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Updated: Oct 12, 2022

By Jenny Martin


Our students have been singing “This is My Father’s World” in Matins every morning for the past few weeks. It is a poetic and beautiful look at the role between Creator and creation. The song even encapsulates many of the ideas we try to instill in the hearts, minds, and souls of our students at Anthem. Examples include,


And to my listening ears, all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres–We encourage attentiveness and attention to detail so our students can have a greater appreciation of their studies. We look for harmony and order in the world.


He shines in all that’s fair–We encourage students to see how God’s handiwork is both beautiful and good.


O let me ne’er forget–We memorize passages of Scripture that weave together the story of God’s redemptive work throughout the Bible, so we will never forget His purpose for our lives


The most important theme from the song, however, is that we find rest only when we acknowledge God’s rulership over creation. The most repeated line in the hymn is the title line, “This is my Father’s world.” Generally, a poem or a song uses repetition to remind the listener of its significance. The first time the hymnist repeats the title line, he follows with “I rest me in the thought.” It is only in acknowledging that creation belongs to God that the hymnist finds rest. Later, the hymnist writes, “Oh let me ne’er forget” that though there are many hardships surrounding him, “God is the ruler yet.”


In Bible class, the sixth graders and I talk about how God sits enthroned over creation on the seventh day in Genesis 2. In The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry Into the Old Testament, Old Testament scholar Sandra Richter discusses how the words “rest” and “enthronement” sound very similar in the Hebrew language. As the Israelites listened to the creation account, they would hear the word “rest” and associate it with God’s rulership. What follows after the creation account, however, is a reminder of what happens when men and women struggle with wanting to challenge that notion. Adam and Eve want to rule themselves and eat of the fruit, Abraham and Sarah cannot rest in God’s timing for His promises, and the Israelites struggle with idol worship. If there is anything we learn from their examples, it is that man creates chaos when he tries to usurp God’s place on the throne.


A new school year will present the challenge to either rest in God’s rulership or to be consumed with worry. Will my child be able to handle the academics? Will my child make deep and lasting friendships that shape her for the better? Will my child be a blessing to others? Will my child care about her work? When will a certain subject “click” for her? Will her life reflect the values we teach every day? (I’m not the only parent who lays awake at night wondering these questions, right?) The hymnist reminds us that it is God who wrought the “rocks and trees…skies and seas.” How much more will God rule over those made in His own image–including our children?


The hymnist’s response is to find rest in the beauty and goodness of the small things around us. Without noticing the little moments–the lily white, the rustling of the grass, or the birds raising their songs to God every morning–we forget who sits on the throne. So as we enter into a new school year, may we focus more on the small victories our children make and may we remember who rules over their lives and for their good. May we remember who spoke creation into existence, and may we remember that He is still making a new creation in the littles ones in our care.


The Lord is King!–Let the heavens ring.

God reigns–Let the earth be glad!



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[Remarks Delivered to the Arkansas Senate Education Committee, February 16, 2022]

Good afternoon, Senators. I am Professor Albert Cheng and I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to discuss the work of the Center for the Study of Classical Education in the Department of Education Reform --- a research lab that I direct. The Center exists to serve the public good of our state by conducting research about the effects of classical pedagogy, particularly on character formation. While most approaches to education primarily focus on filling the head with information, the classical approach is uniquely attentive to the formation of the whole child – head, heart, and hands; what they think, what they are drawn to, and what they do.


Classical education also draws upon diverse traditions and thought, stretching across millennia and different cultures throughout the world, to invite students to entertain questions of great import from different perspectives: (1) What is a life well lived? (2) Who is a just person? (3) What is a just city? (4) What is true, good, and beautiful? Wrestling with these questions is essential for character formation — all of which is necessary to address today’s intractable challenges such as mending civic division, addressing today’s mental and emotional health concerns, and better caring for our neighbors and communities.


Parents across the country and in Arkansas recognize the need for cultivating character. In 2015, a national poll conducted by Education Next at Harvard — a project with which I have past affiliation — found that although nearly one third of parents thought schools should emphasize character education “a lot”, less than 10 percent of parents reported that their schools were doing so. In 2021, parents responded to a related question: How much should schools focus on student academic performance versus student social and emotional wellbeing? The average parent said schools should split their time 50-50.


The hunger for character education is evinced by long wait lists and prolific enrollment growth in classical schools. Great Hearts Academies, a national classical public charter network, had over 13,000 students on their wait list in 2020. More locally, in Northwest Arkansas the demand for classical education has burgeoned too. Across the two campuses of Founders Classical Academy in Bentonville and Rogers, 337 new families of kindergarteners are applying for one of 140 available seats. Three classical schools have opened in the last four years. Ozark Catholic Academy opened first in Tontitown with about 20 ninth and tenth graders and now has quadrupled to over 80 students. All 12 sophomores in the inaugural year graduated and now attend college. Sager Classical Academy opened a year later in Siloam springs with 49 students in the kindergarten through sixth grades. It now plans enroll 140 students and open a high school next year. Anthem Classical Academy, where I am a governing board member, opened last fall with 24 kindergarten through fifth graders, and is poised to double enrollment next fall.

Anthem Classical Academy private Christian school in Fayetteville Northwest Arkansas
Older students at Anthem Classical Academy reading to their Kindergarten buddy.

Parents are right to discern something good about these schools. A national study conducted by researchers at the University of Notre Dame compared adults who attended classical schools with adults who attended non-classical schools. Among other results, the authors found that individuals who attended classical schools:

  • Reported feeling more prepared for college or job by their school

  • Were more likely to earn a four-year degree

  • Had the strongest sense of purpose, agency in dealing with life’s problems, moral obligation to take actions against injustice – indeed, they were most likely to participate in voluntary community service

By studying the classical approach to education and providing professional resources to steward them, the Center for the Study of Classical Education aspires to improve educational opportunities for all students. Classical schools can benefit not only students who attend them, but also be a beacon, guiding all schools to refine their teaching and learning.

In closing, I will leave you with a passage from an article Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote for the Morehouse College newspaper:

“The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals….We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

Those words succinctly capture the practical aim that Center for the Study of Classical Education seeks to attain for all students in our state. Thank you for your time.


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At Anthem, we aspire to prepare our students for service in Northwest Arkansas and the other communities they inhabit. Classical education is positioned to do just that. Why is that? What does the classical approach to civic education have that other approaches do not? In the Winter 2022 issue of National Affairs, Albert Cheng addresses this question, arguing that a proper civic education needs to be understood not as provision of information or skills but as virtue formation.


Read the Essay authored by Albert Cheng on National Affairs here:

https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-civic-education-we-need

Private Classical Christian School in Fayetteville Northwest Arkansas

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