19 Urban Questions: Teaching in the City

By Shirley R. Steinberg; Joe L. Kincheloe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Can Aesthetics Be Taught
in Urban Education?

Roymieco A. Carter

The answer is not as simple as the question might imply. The word aesthet-
ics is loaded with history and meaning which for some may stand diamet-
rically opposed to “urban education.” In this chapter, I examine tradition, time,
and social practice in order to contextualize our understanding of aesthetics. The
chapter also discusses the myriad of new ways in which aesthetics is understood
and taught in urban education.


Aesthetics and the Traditional Voice

How do we understand the nature and value of everyday objects and experiences? How do we go about distinguishing the relevant from the irrelevant? Can we understand the purposes and meanings of experiences within objects? Are we able to place value judgments on the perceptions of these objects and experiences? From where do we draw the resources to defend our judgments? Should the same standards that were constructed to mystify heroic painting, classical theater performance, and traditional literature serve as the mold for creativity, expression, and beauty for the contemporary urban student? The student in the current urban educational setting is accustomed to viewing the urban public space as a visual battleground. The urban public space houses modes of expression and representation that would have been far from imaginable by the “fathers” of the traditional standards of aesthetics. The urban student is assaulted by imagery utilized for activism, propaganda, and advertising. These representations become the filters for the lived experience in the urban public space. The cultural attitudes and selected tol

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