In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:"An Option for Art But Not an Option for Life":Beauty as an Educational ImperativeJoe Winston (bio)IntroductionIn a recent meeting of the academic staff in the university department where I work, we were asked to state our current research interests. Responses progressed around the circle and everyone listened quietly and respectfully until I stated that my interest was beauty, to which there was general laughter—complicit, not derisory, as if everyone (...) laughing presumed it was a joke. In the same week, I heard a story from a colleague who works in another institution. She had been interviewing a prospective female candidate for their postgraduate teacher training course with a deputy principal from a local school. When it came to a decision, the latter had not been in favor of offering the young woman a place; she was "too beautiful," she thought, to the extent that she would "be a distraction" in the classroom.I offer these stories as illustrative of a fact little discussed—that beauty is a problem in educational discourse, seen as either wildly irrelevant or discordant with the job of teaching. Yet it was not always the case. Beauty has in the past been understood as one of the highest aims of education. For Schiller, it fulfilled a core human need, and he wrote in the second of his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man that "it is only through Beauty that man makes his way to Freedom."1 Matthew Arnold argued that it was in beauty that the "human race finds its ideal."2 Emerson saw beauty as "the form under which the intellect likes to study the world,"3 and Iris Murdoch argued that it should be at the base of any education in the virtues, citing Plato's argument that beauty is the one spiritual quality that we love by instinct.4 These figures could hardly be described as philosophical lightweights, yet their sentiments and the complex arguments through which they expressed [End Page 71] them have for years been neglected; only recently has this begun to change. Elaine Scarry, in particular, has written an influential book on the topic, taking up the argument of Iris Murdoch and developing a strong case for the educational power of beauty, allying it strikingly with an education in social justice.5 Two recent articles in this journal have also heralded a re-evaluation of beauty as a concept of profound significance for both the arts and education. Stuart Richmond sees in the development of our capacities to create and appreciate beauty "a way to bring us back into contact with what is sensual and intrinsically worthwhile,"6 and Howard Cannatella argues passionately "that something of the indelible quality of poiesis and delight in beauty should be the focus of specific educational concern, a factor at its core."7This article is an attempt to add further substance to the claim that-beauty should be one of our core educational values. In doing so, it develops the ideas that connect these perspectives: that beauty's power is instinctive, that it delights, that it is of deep human value. As do Murdoch and Scarry in their different ways, I will argue that beauty is powerfully formative and intrinsically associated with virtue, an idea developed in the final section of the article. First, however, I wish to consider what happened to beauty and why it became a neglected concept not only in education but also in the arts.What Happened to Beauty?Language and world refer to each other and presuppose each other for their mutual intelligibility. In this count, human learning becomes the process of aligning language and world.8In considering beauty, we begin inevitably with the word itself and with its usage. Like all evaluative concepts captured through language, beauty is a historical and cultural entity and, as such, it has both gathered and discarded meanings with the passage of time. Consequently, its nature is elusive and open to revision and debate. Is it characterized by perfect harmony and balance, as the classical world would have it, or by the soaring solidity of a medieval Gothic cathedral? Do we associate it with goodness... (shrink)
Shakespeare wrote plays and young children are geniuses at playing. In March 2008 the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) launched Stand Up for Shakespeare, its manifesto for the teaching of Shakespeare in schools. Of its three stated principles—“Do it on your feet; see it live; start it earlier”—it is perhaps the third that is the most tantalizing. The company’s education department has done much over recent years to introduce key stage 2 children to a variety of his plays but has paid (...) less attention to children’s early years. In association with the University of Warwick, the company therefore commissioned a pilot project to introduce children as young as four and five years old to Shakespeare in order to .. (shrink)
This research aimed to assess the nature and level of pupils? educational aspirations and to elucidate the factors that influence these aspirations. A sample of five inner city comprehensive secondary schools were selected by their local authority because of poor pupil attendance, below?average examination results and low rates of continuing in full?time education after the age of 16. Schools were all ethnically mixed and coeducational. Over 800 pupils aged 12?14 completed a questionnaire assessing pupils? experience of home, school and their (...) peers. A sub?sample of 48 pupils, selected by teachers to reflect ethnicity and ability levels in individual schools, also participated in detailed focus group interviews. There were no significant differences in aspirations by gender or year group, but differences between ethnic groups were marked. Black African, Asian Other and Pakistani groups had significantly higher educational aspirations than the White British group, who had the lowest aspirations. The results suggest the high aspirations of Black African, Asian Other and Pakistani pupils are mediated through strong academic self?concept, positive peer support, a commitment to schooling and high educational aspirations in the home. They also suggest that low educational aspirations may have different mediating influences in different ethnic groups. The low aspirations of White British pupils seem to relate most strongly to poor academic self?concept and low educational aspirations in the home, while for Black Caribbean pupils disaffection, negative peers and low commitment to schooling appear more relevant. Interviews with pupils corroborated the above findings and further illuminated the factors students described as important in their educational aspirations. The results are discussed in relation to theories of aspiration which stress its nature as a cultural capacity. (shrink)
Seeking beauty in education -- The meanings of beauty: a brief history -- Beauty as educational experience -- Beauty, education and the good society -- Beauty and creativity: examples from an arts curriculum -- Beauty in science and maths education -- Awakening beauty in education.
In this review of Matthew DeCoursey’s book on the aesthetics of drama education, I acknowledge the originality and usefulness of the theoretical framework he provides and attempt to summarize its key features. In applying them to an example of my own practice, I make use of the conceptual terminology DeCoursey has introduced and argue that it is both effective and illuminating to the practitioner. In tracing the trajectory of DeCoursey’s subsequent analysis of key theorists in the field, the study of (...) scripted drama, and the extensive use of drama across the curriculum, I attempt to do justice to the strengths of his argument, as well as pointing out what I perceive as some of its inherent weaknesses. I conclude by indicating some gaps in his attention to both historical and current practices in the field while still commending the book for its much-needed contribution. (shrink)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Reviewed by:Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of ArtJoe WinstonOnly a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art, by Alexander Nehamas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007, 186 pp., $29.95 cloth.We cannot doubt that, since the turn of the new millennium, there has been something of what Michael Bérubé has called a "Return to Beauty" in cultural and (...) literary scholarship.1 Bérubé locates the beginning of this return in an article written by Marjorie Perloff for the Chronicle of Higher Education in December 4, 1998, and in an opinion that he shares with Rita Felski, he sees it as a misguided attack on cultural studies.2 It is clear that when Elaine Scarry spoke disparagingly of "the enemies of beauty" in her influential book On Beauty and Being Just, she had the more extreme relativists of cultural studies in her sights.3 Far from being a short-lived spat, however, the renewed scholarly interest in beauty has grown, moved on a pace, and shows no sign of intellectual exhaustion; and most of this work has not, as Bérubé would have us believe, directed itself against postmodern aesthetics. Wendy Steiner, in The Trouble with Beauty, took Modernism and the art of the twentieth-century avant-garde as her target;4 whereas John Armstrong's The Secret Power of Beauty provided a sustained and accessible look at the history of aesthetic thought and reminded us of the significance of beauty in our lives, as both a concept and as a value.5 Arthur Danto's The Abuse of Beauty traced, like Steiner, the rejection of beauty to the rise of Modernism. Significantly, he did not attack Modernist art but recognized how it drove a wedge between beauty and the arts, showing us in the process that art need not be beautiful to be of value. In reassessing Modernism's rejection of beauty, however, Danto concluded by arguing forcefully that if beauty need not be excluded from art, it cannot be excluded from everyday living: "Beauty is an option for art but not a necessary condition. But it is not an option for life. It is a necessary condition for life as we would want to live it"6When a scholar with the reputation of Alexander Nehamas turns his attention to beauty, then we know it is still on the agenda in a big way. As with John Armstrong's work, one of the many delights of this book is its clarity of expression and the accessibility of its prose. In no way is Nehamas ever talking down to or patronizing the reader, however. He takes us on a philosophical journey that is rigorously argued and backed up by a wide selection of examples drawn chiefly from the world of art, which is indeed the subject of the writer's attention. If he has cultural studies in his sights, then he is very quiet about it. In fact, the canonical writers of cultural studies, whether they be Foucault, Bourdieu, Williams, or Gramsci, are entirely absent from the text. Instead, the central role goes to Plato—on whom Nehamas has written in two previous publications7—with important [End Page 124] contributions from Schopenhauer, Kant, Nietszche, and Clive Bell, not to mention Proust and Thomas Mann or the artworks themselves. This has a strong whiff of the canon about it perhaps; be that as it may, only a reviewer with a very large ideological drum to beat could remain deaf to the argument itself. For these individuals are all supportive of Nehamas's own thinking and of the argument he has himself developed, which, I think, is not only important to the world of art and art education but, more broadly, to the aesthetics of contemporary schooling itself.Before beginning to look at this argument in detail, it is worth noting that Nehamas has something telling to say about the principles and role of the reviewing process, something that cannot but make me feel wryly self-conscious as I begin it here. A review, he tells us, is a kind of advertisement to help... (shrink)