Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Purpose of Education as Explained by Aesthetic Realism

I am pleased to post "The Purpose of Education," an introduction Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism wrote for the first public seminar given by All For Education in 1973.  Aesthetic Realism Consultants, Barbara Allen and Dr. Arnold Perey are two of the pioneers that led the way in teaching teachers how to use the Aesthetic Realism Method at that time.  I, Rosemary Plumstead, am proud to have joined them in this great work in 1975.  We continue today as we travel together doing Staff Development workshops at conferences throughout the country and teach a bi-weekly workshop for educators of all levels and subjects with our colleague Patricia Martone, also an Aesthetic Realism Consultant and authority on the teaching of reading and ELL students in the New York City public schools. 

In its simplicity and straightforwardness, this introduction by Mr. Siegel, so relevant today, is what educators and administrators around the globe need to know--what really is the purpose of education!  It isn't the high stakes testing that is now rampant in schools.  It isn't to be the brightest and the best--a goal that drives education in various cultures.  It isn't just to get a job--though surely every person deserves the dignity of work and wants to make a living and be expressed.   So, what is the purpose of education?  Read on.

The Purpose of Education by Eli Siegel

While it has been hinted or intimated often that the purpose of education is to come to a relation with the world which makes the world itself acceptable and oneself likewise a source of pride, it hasn't been clearly said that all education--whether geometry or agriculture, arithmetic, poetry, or computing--is for the purpose of liking the world.
Aesthetic Realism, in keeping with much that has been written of mind, says that mind does two things: it knows; and also likes and dislikes.  The first of these possibilities is called the cognitive.  All knowledge is some aspect of the cognitive.  The second is called the affective; and all pleasure and pain, preference or dislike, hope and fear belong to the affective.

If people are rich in the cognitive--know things in the world and the world itself quite opulently--and don't like the world, it would seems that the knowing has not come to full avail.  Suppose a person knows everything in any curriculum with fulness and subtlety and at the same time says, "All these subjects still have not made me think better of the world.  I've studied engineering, and I'm not sold on the world.  I've studied chemistry, and as far as I'm concerned, chemistry doesn't make me like the world at all better...I've studied history, and I think the world in terms of its past is as much a mess as the present it."

We have to ask, then: What should be the relation of pleasure and pain, or the affective, to the cognitive, which has to do with knowing and not knowing?  Aesthetic Realism says that where anything is known and whether one likes it or not is looked on as unimportant, there is a great disruption in education.  This disruption, of cognitive fulness yet affective inadequacy or failure, has made for a great deal of mental weakness in the world.

There are two things, then, in education.  One is to know the world as well as possible.  The other is to ask consciously whether the knowledge of the world can make for the like of the world.  If it cannot, the world is a mistake.,  If it has to be that the more you know the world, the more you think it is against you or you don't have the valid right to care for it, then knowledge itself is part of a cosmological disruption and a mental disruption.  Aesthetic Realism says that knowledge and feeling are the same thing; and that true knowledge of the world makes for a true like of it.

The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method workshop takes place from 12:30-2:00 pm on alternating Saturdays at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, a not-for-profit educational institution in New York City, New York.