The Beautiful Teaching Method
Dear Unknown Friends:
There is a tremendous urgency about this issue of The Right Of, because it is about the teaching method America’s schools are desperate for. It is about the teaching method that really works, that enables children, including those in some of the most economically ravaged neighborhoods, to learn successfully and with pride; the method that can stop the horrible racial animosity in the schools of this nation, and has done so with real students in real New York City classrooms: the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method. And this TRO is also a celebration: of how beautiful, kind, glowingly true, steadily successful Aesthetic Realism and its teaching method are!
We begin with three short poems by Eli Siegel. They say, musically and with charm, something large about what this world is like—the world in which every schoolchild finds himself. And we publish a paper by New York City teacher Patricia Martone, who is also one of the instructors in the most important class for educators in America: The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel As Teaching Method. Her paper was part of a public seminar titled “The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method Explains Why Students Don’t Learn—& How They Can!”
As I have already implied, the Aesthetic Realism teaching method is not only true and effective—it is beautiful. It not only enables students to pass courses, do well on exams—it enables students to feel that a fact is warm, that a topic in the curriculum is one’s friend and therefore should be welcomed into one’s mind.
Eli Siegel is the philosopher who showed that the deepest purpose of every person is to like the world on an honest basis; but that we can go away from this purpose because of another purpose of ours: to have contempt. And he showed that ordinary contempt, the desire to have an “addition to self through the lessening of something else,” is the beginning of all the cruelty that has ever been, including racism. This contempt is also what makes a person unable to learn.
Mr. Siegel explained that the purpose of education is “to like the world through knowing it.” Part of liking the world is to criticize the injustice in it; and no person was a more courageous, passionate critic of injustice than Eli Siegel. But every item in the curriculum represents the world. And the reason the world as such can be honestly liked, including by a child of 8 who has already endured a lot, is in this Aesthetic Realism principle: “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites” (Eli Siegel, Self and World, p. 83). Mr. Siegel writes, in sentences at once scientific and tender:
The structure of what thing cannot illuminate our own structure? Does not a sheet of paper in its wideness and narrowness bring some essential likeness to us, to ourselves?...Education, principally, is the pleasant finding out of how things can help us know who we are as we see them.
What Children Long to See
I am a person who knows firsthand how much the Aesthetic Realism teaching method has a child want to and able to learn. I met Aesthetic Realism very early, and it made me love education, from kindergarten through graduate school and beyond. I also saw in Eli Siegel what children long to see but feel they will never see in a person: honesty that was sheer and constant; kindness one could always count on; and a desire to know that was so uncurtailed, it made him at once the most comprehensive of scholars, and the person who understood a child to her tumultuous depths.
There is no educational method more respected than the Aesthetic Realism teaching method, and Aesthetic Realism is becoming known in America. Like everything big and beautiful that makes for more respect for humanity and therefore cramps the ability of narrow people to have contempt and power, Aesthetic Realism has had enemies.
The resentment of Aesthetic Realism is ugly; but it is also terrifically stupid: it shows a mind disabled, viciously fearful of what is great.
The Aesthetic Realism teaching method is the greatest friend to education and every child. That is why it is respected and loved—and will be by all humanity forever.