I want teachers everywhere to know that the Aesthetic Realism teaching method not only enables students to learn successfully, it is also a means of opposing and ending prejudice! I have seen and experienced the tremendous effect of this method over many years as an elementary and middle school teacher.
In her commentary to The Right of Aesthetic Realism To Be Known 1622, titled “Education: The ‘Having-to-Do-With Other Things,’” editor Ellen Reiss explains the means by which the Aesthetic Realism teaching method counters prejudice: the accurate and vital seeing, through the opposites in the facts of every subject, how we are related to the world and other people.
In an article also published in this issue, I tell about lessons that integrated science and reading. Through them, my third grade students learned about the structure of the earth, about symbiosis, and how to see another person—for example, a classmate who could look and seem so different—as someone friendly, important to know. I’m proud that through this method, my students became really excited about learning and kinder to each other. I can’t think of anything a teacher wants more—that great combination of education and ethics in his or her classroom!
The commentary by Ms. Reiss begins:
We are proud to publish five beautiful short poems by Eli Siegel, and also an article by Barbara McClung about the great Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method. Mrs. McClung is a New York City elementary school teacher. Her article is part of a paper she presented in May at the public seminar titled “The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method Makes Every Subject Truly Anti-Prejudice—& Students Learn!”
That title is true. And there’s no more important news for education—and, really, for America—than the statement in it. As Mrs. McClung describes lessons she taught in her public school classroom in keeping with the standard third grade curriculum, we see these two huge facts: 1) There is a teaching method that can truly end the failure and agony in education! 2) Prejudice—that horrible thing which people have felt was unstoppable—not only is explained by Aesthetic Realism but, through the Aesthetic Realism teaching method, it actually ends!
That is why the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Elijah E. Cummings, told the US House of Representatives that the “tremendously successful” Aesthetic Realism teaching method is “an effective tool to stop racism…; it enables people of all races to see others with respect and kindness” (Congressional Record, July 29, 2002)
It’s a wonderful yet logical thing that when Aesthetic Realism is the method used, a countering of prejudice is not gone after by means of some “extra,” something tacked on to the curriculum: it takes place gracefully and deeply as students learn the standard subjects—history, mathematics, science, grammar, etc. Aesthetic Realism shows that to see any fact truly is the means to seeing people truly. The basis is this statement by Eli Siegel, a central principle of Aesthetic Realism: “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”
The short poems published here all have to do in various ways with the subject of Mrs. McClung’s article: science. They have Mr. Siegel’s kind, charming, exact, deep, wide respect for reality. In the preface to his book Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana: Poems, Mr. Siegel wrote:
Poetry, like life, states that the very self of a thing is its relations, its having-to-do-with other things. Whatever is in the world, whatever person, has meaning because it or he has to do with the whole universe: immeasurable and crowded reality.
That statement, so important in the history of art criticism, is also about education—and it’s the opposition to prejudice. When we see that we are ourselves because we have to do with the whole world, we want to be just to that world, know it, treasure it even as we’re critical of things in it. That is what happens through the Aesthetic Realism teaching method. >>Read more