Friday, February 25, 2011

The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method Opposes Bullying!

I have been greatly affected by recent news reports of increased violence in our schools and cases of bullying that have turned deadly. In Massachusetts, a 15 year old young Irish immigrant named Phoebe Prince, living in the US less than a year, committed suicide after months of vicious bullying by schoolmates. Many of these youth are facing criminal charges for their part in her death. In Deerfield Beach, Florida, young Michael Brewer was doused with a flammable liquid by middle school students in his school and set on fire. These events and the cruelty that led up to them leave us speechless. How could one human being treat another with such cold, calculating indifference?

I have learned from Aesthetic Realism that the cause of all violence is the desire in a person to take away meaning from things and people standing for the outside world, have contempt for it, which Eli Siegel defined as: "the addition to self through the lessening of what is not oneself." So we make ourselves "falsely" more, by making less of what's not us. Clearly, these young people did not see the feelings of those individuals they harmed and tormented as REAL as their own! I have also learned that it is anger, changed to contempt, that is the source of this cruelty. It begins with a way of seeing the world, not an individual person. One individual is targetted as a means of defeating a world one sees as unkind, unfriendly, indifferent to oneself.

As a teacher of science for many years in New York City public high schools, I know that the Aesthetic Realism Method, which I used for 30 years as the basis of my teaching, enables students to learn happily and successfully. It also brings out and strengthens the desire in young people to be just to other people. I saw this day after day in some of the most jaded teens from some of the most economically hard-hit ares of New York. They want to be proud of how they meet the world and people. They want to be kind and also feel that they are strong. This method brings together education and ethics in a lively and deep way that evokes the very best in a young person of any age. You can see this vividly in a paper I am proud was published recently in the international periodical, The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known .

Another example is this Environmental Science lesson I gave on biomes and the beautiful way that leaves are made. Students saw a structure in the world, through the opposites, enabling them to like the world more, learn the subject and oppose unjust anger they might have taken out on someone they didn't even know. Violence, perpetrated by young people, is NOT inevitable!