Vibrate. Resonate. Quicken the Educational Experience into Intensest Life
Chin, Christina, Art Education
So often we have seen students slump over on their desks in the humdrum endurance of textbook-laden cognitive monotony. In the quest for more effective education, how can direct personal engagement with actual aesthetic experiences - attendance of performances, participation in artistic workshops and activities, and viewing of actual artworks - play an important role? We have a tremendous opportunity as art educators to guide our students to engage mind, body, and soul - until they virtually vibrate - with the plethora of artistic opportunities around them. We can lead them to enliven their emotions and senses with the dazzling events, artworks, individuals, and interactive experiences proliferating the art arena.
Balancing Academic and Aesthetic Education In Democracy and Education, Dewey (1916/2004) asserts that the overarching aim of schooling in the United States is the development of well-balanced individuals who will ultimately become contributing adult citizens of a democratic society. The current educational system in the United States, however, emphasizes cognitive learning, and tends to marginalize the physical, emotional and social aspects of an individuals development. With education heavily weighted toward the cognitive, it thus promotes a rather unbalanced individual, as opposed to the "well-balanced" one that is desired. The U.S. governments emphasis on the academic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic is exemplified by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (U.S. Department of Education, 2005). A Cartesian mind/body-like split seems to underpin the philosophy of U.S. educational leaders and policymakers who, over the past century, "have drawn that line between cognitive or academic teaching on the one hand and social, emotional, and ethical teaching on the other" (Cohen, 2006, p. 18). To the latter, marginalized half of this dichotomy, I would add kinesthetic teaching as well. Countering this split, recent empirical studies have revealed that "social and emotional capacities are just as brain-based as linguistic and mathematical competencies" (Cohen, 2006, p. 6). The mind-body fissure is being "re-fused" by science as cognitive, social, and emotional learning are being united in the brain. People are beginning to understand that social, emotional, and kinesthetic competencies can be taught as a formal course of study, and are just as important as cognitive academic subjects in the development of well-balanced individuals.
It is time to balance the mind-body scales. The aesthetic experience can serve as a powerful means to bring the scales into equilibrium by emphasizing kinesthetic sensory perception, and the social and emotional, while simultaneously calling on the cognitive. Dewey (1934/1980) asserts that the aesthetic experience is itself found in this realization of balance. He sees an aesthetic experience as one that begins, develops to a point of tension or imbalance, and ultimately finds resolution in fulfillment of that which is lacking - ultimately, a discovery of wholeness and balance. Such an experience finds its aesthetic quality in that moment when equilibrium is achieved: "The moment of passage from disturbance into harmony is that of intensest life" (p. 17).
Contrary to such intense aesthetic experiences, so much of my own learning in art education within the university classroom has been filled with readings of asserted theory and philosophy, and my earnest efforts to come to terms with that theory. It is, therefore, predominantly a cognitive exercise. But I find it lacking, and my engagement wanting. I find frustration in trying to make a connection between theory and reality, and the connections I do construct are often blurry. Such cognitively oriented learning lacks vitality, tangibility, wholeness. Dewey (1934/1980) argues that the aesthetic is found in the experience of the perceiver. As such, there must be something to perceive. What I am typically exposed to, however, are the perceptions, and theories on perception, of other scholars. …