This year I have English, Psychology,and Photography classes. These are technically different subjects, but you would be shocked at the overlap. You may not like reading. You may not like writing. You can even hate English class if you want. But without a doubt, you use what I teach every single day. What I teach is not a list of authors, dates, or literary elements. What I teach is analysis.
Day one in English, we don’t jump right into the texts, but instead start with something each student interacts with every day, even if they don’t read novels for fun: music. By comparing music videos and determining the meaning of these works based on the lyrics as well as the tone and visual elements selected by the producers, students recognize the importance of being mindful of every message that comes their way whether from the radio, a commercial, Netflix, or our next novel. Only then do we go on to ask the big questions of the classic texts we grapple with and see how they align with the ultimate truths of scripture: What is the nature of God? Of man? What has gone wrong with the world? How can we be saved? What is the purpose of our life?
Some novels demonstrate accurately the nature of man, but fail to determine how we can be saved. Some show success in a particular lifestyle, but how this dead ends into unforeseen side effects. Every text has some truth in it, but their answers to life’s big questions leads to a wide variety of implications which can lead to unfulfilling and hopeless ends without being able to ground this truth on scripture and what God our creator defines about us. Students must be able to analyze this for themselves. They will not be in my classroom forever.
In psychology, analysis is even less subtle. Every personality theory or clinical therapist asks the same questions we ask in literature – What is the nature of man? What has gone wrong? How do we be saved? What even are our goals in treatment? Behavioral psychologists seek to change behavior, cognitive therapists diagnose and control issues in patterns of thought, psychoanalysts look for hidden motives from past trauma and assume healing is through relationship only, humanists think the answer lies inside each one of us if we can just be heard and reach our potential, many therapists seek medicines to cure all ills as mental imbalances. Everyone asks the same questions, and many have elements of truth. After all, God created the body, and the mind and in a fallen world, there are a million ways things can go wrong. But ultimately, who knows man like the Creator of man Himself? If we can start from a foundation of knowing man’s sin, value, and hope, the entire trajectory leads us to a new, Biblical analysis with eternal implications as we look at even the most severe mental illnesses and appreciate anew the characteristics God created us with.
Every photographer is an analyzer of the world as well. I love how differently the students look at the campus after touring it through the lens of a camera, considering different angles and elements of photography and composition as they capture it. Many photos can hit the mark of employing line, repetition, or the rule of thirds. But the greatest photographs tell stories. It is the emotion in the eyes, it is the grandeur of the scene, it is the scope of experiences shown that result in photography being the art form it is. Every image tells a story in a powerful way that the saying would have us believe is “worth a thousand words.”
As representatives of God in this world, should we not be versed in how to use this power of photography? Should we not be able to analyze the messages that come to us in every work of literature or film and present our own knowledge and hope to the world using these same mediums? Can we ignore the hurting and confused who seek help from psychotherapy professionals and cry out for meaning and hope? We cannot. And so my classes will continue to use the same priceless skills in every discipline; analysis is everywhere.