Reprinted from San Antonio Register
Through the Aesthetic Realism
by Rosemary A. Plumstead
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).
A Tree Puts Together the Opposites of Individuality and Relation,
We 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 and grasses].
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 great educator, Eli Siegel, known truly throughout America.
January 21, 1999
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 Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education.
Further Important sites and articles on education:
Aesthetic Realism Foundation
141 Greene Street
New York, NY 10012
A not-for-profit educational foundation