|NOTE: As Rosemary Plumstead began her 24th year of using the
Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method, she has seen thousands of students who
had been hard-bitten and angry, change — learn with enthusiasm and become
kinder. This great principle stated by Eli Siegel is the basis of her method: "The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness
of opposites" (Self and World, Definition Press).
Through the Aesthetic Realism
Teaching Method Knowledge Opposes Anger — & Students Learn!
continued to study trees, using an article from The New York Times
Science section titled, "Plants Share Precious Water With Neighbors" by
Carol Kaesuk Yoon. It has been known by scientists that water moves up
the roots of plants and trees and then evaporates out through the leaves.
But it seems that a new phenomenon has been observed. We read these sentences:
In the night, many plants pull water up from deep in the earth, and
rather than holding on to it to pass through their leaves the next day,
they flush it out through their shallow roots into the ground around them
.... Plants ranging from sagebrush in the arid steppes of Utah to sugar
maples in the rainy forest of upstate New York appear to be acting as subterranean
watering systems, drenching the soil and their thirsty neighbors [ — bushes
By Rosemary A. Plumstead
A Tree Puts Together the Opposites of Individuality
and Relation, Generosity and Withholding, Strength and Gentleness
|This phenomenon — the ability of the plant or tree to pull up large
quantities of water from deep roots into more shallow roots — is called
hydraulic lift. "What do you think of this?" I asked the class. "They’re
not selfish," Monica said with pleasure. Mabel, who can be very tough,
said with emotion, "That’s sweet." I pointed to the fact that this is not
just in areas where there is excessive water, but in areas where the water
is precious to every plant. "Why do you think the trees do this?" I asked.
My students weren’t sure. "Maybe they have enough water for themselves
and so they don’t need it," Tony commented. "Why not hold onto the water
in the roots?" I asked. "Maybe it’s good for the tree if other plants have
water," Sonia said uncertainly. She was right. The presence of other living
things near the tree, enriches the soil — keeping it moist, adding to the
nutrients in it, and crucially stopping the soil from eroding when there
is rain. I asked, "Does this show something organic in nature — that in
having other vegetation stronger, the tree itself gets strength?" Yes!
They thought that it did. "Is this how we are?" "No," Tony said, "we’re
too greedy." "Does this mean," I asked, "that how we act is in keeping
with the nature of the world or against it?" "Against it," they said. "We’re
seeing an instance," I continued, "of how opposites can be beautifully
one in reality — generosity and selfishness, strength and gentleness, justice
to oneself and to the world.
They Learn and Are Kinder
Because of Aesthetic Realism, the classroom atmosphere became no longer
charged, but friendly. Karen told me, "I never really liked science until
I learned this way of teaching." Agatha, who had been very angry at the
beginning of the term, and who was repeating the course, began to help
Soo learn vocabulary words in science, and Soo has taught her how to write
her name in Korean. Agatha, who had painfully told the class that she couldn’t
pass science tests, is now doing so with ease. In fact, 96 percent of these
9th grade students passed the RCTs (Regents Competency Test) in science
— in a school system where there is so much failure! All my students are
kinder, less angry. Shawn said:
This class has really changed the way I look at certain things. Just
today I bumped into someone in the hall and I just turned around and apologized
and he was very angry. So me, not trying to have contempt for him, I apologized
again and he was stunned. It was as if no one ever apologized to him before.
In the past, I would have said to him, "What’s your problem?" and we would
have gotten into a fight.
Rather than show their own tremendous respect for Aesthetic Realism, persons
of the press prefer that children have stunted lives and maim and kill
each other. It is my intention and that of my colleagues to have this kind,
practical, and life-enriching way of seeing education, come to by the greatest
educator, Eli Siegel, known truly throughout America.
Note: Rosemary Plumstead teaches science at LaGuardia High School in New York
City. She is an Aesthetic Realism consultant to women and one of the instructors
of The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel as Teaching Method. Mrs. Plumstead
studies in classes taught by Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic