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The Right of
Aesthetic Realism to Be Known

 NUMBER 1451.—January 24, 2001

Aesthetic Realism was founded by Eli Siegel in 1941 

Education & What Every Child Deserves

Dear Unknown Friends:

Here is the 4th part of the great, historic Educational Method Is Poetic, by Eli Siegel. In this 1973 lecture, Mr. Siegel shows that education is, richly and elementally, a oneness of opposites — the same opposites that art makes one; the opposites that are also fundamental, puzzling, often tumultuous in our lives. "All beauty is a making one of opposites," Mr. Siegel explained in a principle central to Aesthetic Realism, "and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." In the part of his lecture published here, Mr. Siegel begins to speak of the scientist Robert Boyle as a means of showing what education is.

I am among those who consider Eli Siegel the greatest of educators. He showed the grandeur, the beauty of learning, and he also had one see and feel its tremendous warmth and friendliness. He enabled me to love knowledge, and I represent many people; I represent humanity. His own love of knowledge was passionate, graceful, all-inclusive, and constant. In this lecture, there are lightness and humor as he says things of landmark importance. He describes, for instance, how religion and science are alike; the relation of science and art; the likeness of literary style and physics. 

Mr. Siegel is the philosopher who explained something educators have sought after: the relation among all the subjects of education. He explained the relation among all the things reality has. It is the oneness of opposites. That is the basis of the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method and why it has succeeded magnificently in New York City public schools—even while those schools have been in turmoil and have been brutally impoverished. A child, seeing reality's opposites as one in a subject, sees that there is beautiful sense in that subject, and in the world. She also feels that what she is learning has to do with her very self. 

For example, a chemical compound is, in the makeup of its molecules, a mighty oneness of the opposites junction and separateness or distinction. Through the Aesthetic Realism method, a child can see that: she sees an oxygen atom is more its distinct self, has its particular possibilities and usefulness come forth, through merging with two atoms of hydrogen. And as she does, the child feels surer she will be more herself, more a distinct individual, through knowing people and things different from her and feeling connected with them. She sees the structure of that water molecule as dear to her. She understands and remembers it. 

Mr. Siegel is the philosopher who explained, too, the purpose of education: it is "to like the world through knowing it." And he identified the thing in the human self that interferes with learning: it is contempt, the feeling that the world is something not to care for, but to diminish as a means of enhancing oneself. Contempt can have a person acquire knowledge impressively but not be affected deeply, warmly, by it. And the seeing of the world as inimical and to be lessened can also have one not welcome knowledge of it into oneself: contempt can have one unable to learn. 

What Does Our Nation Owe a Child?

Recently a New York State judge ruled that the state's mode of funding public schools is illegal because it discriminates against minority and poor students. I am going to quote now from a New York Times article on the matter. I do so because—though Justice DeGrasse's ruling was important, ever so good, something to celebrate—as the Times tells of it we find, nestling quietly in two sentences, a taken-for-granted attitude to people which will be seen as outrageous when humanity becomes civilized. That attitude has to do with the way the phrases "perilous job," "poor pupils," and "Herculean tasks" are used. The writer, Abby Goodnough, says: 

New York is the latest of more than two dozen states forced by courts to grapple with the perilous job of assuring that poor pupils get an education that passes constitutional muster, either by redistributing aid, thereby angering some, or tapping into separate funds, annoying others... [Justice DeGrasse] gave the Legislature the Herculean tasks of helping New York City reduce class sizes, ... improve school buildings and acquire new books, computers and supplies. [11 Jan. 2001]

We know, of course, what the Times means as it uses the words "perilous" and "Herculean." But really: it is barbaric and hideous to see the making sure all children get a good education as "perilous" in any way, or as something that presents supernaturally large difficulties ("Herculean"). The having all students justly educated should be seen as nothing other than completely natural—the happy responsibility of the state and nation. 

And that the phrase "poor pupils" should be in a sentence with the sentence then simply proceeding quietly, is also crazy and awful. By the year 2001 in America, there should be no "poor pupils"! Every citizen should feel that if any child is poor it is an emergency—something that the nation must remedy immediately. 

Urgent Aesthetic Opposites

There is a likeness between the purpose of education, "to like the world," and how the world should be owned. The world and the self of everyone are aesthetic opposites, needing to be one. Every child deserves, from birth, to own as much of this world as anyone else. Every American child deserves to own as much of this nation as anyone. And only our contempt could have us feel that for one child to be born rich and another poor, is somehow tolerable. That America countenanced a child's being born into poverty will be seen with horror, in the same way that our nation's countenancing slavery is now seen with horror. 

Eli Siegel was the educator who showed that the world—with its books, ideas, objects, people, numbers, words, history—should be rightly and lovingly in the mind of every person. And in his lifework, Aesthetic Realism, he provided the beautiful means. 

Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education

Education & a Scientist
By Eli Siegel

English literature has a great deal about education. Even the novels have: The Newcomes of Thackeray, and David Copperfield and Dombey and Son of Dickens—there are schools aplenty. And none of the schools at the present time seem good enough. 

The history of education has been written from a factual point of view, but in terms of how people felt, it hasn't been written. Education went on in the 13th century; it went on in Jerusalem hundreds of years ago; it went on in Syria and in Egypt; went on in the Middle Ages—the method of having younger people told about the world. There's a Jewish song that is about that: "Oif'n Pripechuk," one of the most popular songs in Yiddish. It shows that education, long before the New York school system, went on.

Robert Boyle: Religion & Physics

An important person of the 17th century, concerned with education, is Robert Boyle. Like Isaac Barrow, also of the 17th century, Boyle had a big feeling for theology and also for physics. One can see that in any fairly given biography of him. One can see it in the essay from which I'll read, by a famous 1890s writer, G.S. Street, in Craik's English Prose.

An interesting meaning of both religion and science is that your mind can be wide and deal with the unseen. The large question as to religion is: Are the things that make the world go, all seeable; or are there forces that are just as forceful that you can't see so well? And Newton, for example, pointed to a force which no one has seen: gravity. Gravity will not go on the stage because it isn't that kind of girl. 

Let's take the life of Boyle, with its confusions. He is immortal, because there is something which is still called Boyle's Law. It's about pressure and elasticity. So what can you do if something about pressure and elasticity is called by your name? You've got to be immortal, that's all. 

Robert Boyle was the seventh son of Richard, first Earl of Cork...and was born at Lismore Castle in Munster, on the 25th of January 1627. His education at home gave him a mastery of French and Latin....It was at Geneva...that he first experienced, at the age of fourteen, an impulse to religious meditation which never left him.

Boyle is almost exactly contemporary with Pascal. Pascal made some discoveries in physics, about how a thing falls, the pressure of fluids; he added to Torricelli, added somewhat to Galileo; and at the same time was one of the most religious persons ever. Pascal was taken by the obvious and the mysteries. 

By the death of his father in 1644 [Boyle] inherited...considerable wealth, which was ...devoted in abundant the spread of scriptural knowledge, and to the aid of poor students of science.

He really wanted other people to learn. 

In physics Boyle is of course renowned as the discoverer.. of the air-pump, and in a lesser degree for "Boyle's Law" of the relation between elasticity and pressure.

Elasticity is a being able to change and be yourself, even under pressure. 

"We may notice also his improvement in the thermometer, and his experiments in electricity." That is very early, because electricity needed the centuries. But there was some awareness that there was a force having to do with amber and wax called electricity. I'm sure if his name hadn't been used for Boyle's Law, he might have made himself immortal through electricity: something Edison sold might be called a Boyle now. 

Art & Science: About the Same Thing

Then, Street writes: "Robert Boyle had the strict temperament of a man of science, as distinguished from that of a general philosopher." So a problem comes up as to what to study. I've said before, in the talks on science, that the relation of art and science is a relation of opposites. The purpose of art is: from feeling to get to truth. The purpose of science is: from truth to get to feeling or emotion. But they are about the same thing, with different direction. The last point in learning about the Rocky Mountains is to get to the right emotion about them. 

He guarded himself carefully from even the knowledge of a priori theory which might lead to prepossessions inimical to the impartial conduct of experiment, save, one must suppose, in so far as hypothesis is absolutely necessary to the first stages.

A priori, from the point of view of Aesthetic Realism, is completely correct—but make sure that you don't mingle the a priori with certain wishes of your own. A priori is just as useful in science as the a posteriori, or the experimental, way. You can get from certain principles to objects, and you can go from objects to principles. Both are poetic. 

"[His] excellent work in science...was rather due to an untiring persistence than to great gifts of intellect." In judging scientists, we find there are two things: one, care, caution even, persistency, being able to experiment and experiment some more; and then, the having of what can be called intuition. The reason that Newton is the scientist of the 17th century, or of any century, is that he had great ideas with a capacity for work. Those are two opposites. Boyle is described here as having greater persistence than gift of intellect. But he had a gift of intellect too, or he wouldn't be remembered, and he wouldn't have come to Boyle's Law. A work of his is in the Everyman Library. 

"He had hardly a disinterested love of knowledge; he valued it as it 'had a tendency to use.'" And another thing is: how knowledge is good in itself, as Newman said, and how also it is useful. This is like art: art is useful, but is also what it is. 

Education Is the Opposites

What I'm saying is that education is perhaps the greatest aggregate of opposites as one, present in one word. You can find them in poetry; but let us take the opposites that are in Arnold's title Culture and Anarchy. It is quite clear that these opposites are having a hard time today, because the elementary schools are little nests of little anarchists. The high schools are bigger nests of bigger anarchists. And then, of course, the colleges are profound nests of full grown anarchists. Culture and anarchy are opposites. And what they represent is very likable: culture is the desire to be careful; anarchy is the desire to be free. If they weren't friendly, this world would be badly made. 

They are principal in education, and they've always been felt. There was a day when the students could do anything in a school, including keeping the schoolmaster out: it was called a barring out; it was part of the English educational way. And the feeling that both "culture and anarchy" are necessary is around. We find things corresponding to them. There's a sense of insight, something which comes to one, the feeling that there's a new symmetry in the world; and then also there's the being able to follow out a previous thought. In science you have to get to a thought you never had before, and you also have to learn how to develop a thought you've had. 

There Is Style

From the greater masters of sonorous English, Boyle was as far removed as from the clear-cut simplicity and directness of Swift. His style is not involved, and is not affected; it is merely rarefied and verbose.

We come to the problem, Would a study of suction, pliability, elasticity, pressure, malleability, porosity—all things having to do with physics—enable one to have a better sense of style, if one saw them as in the same world? I think so. All these things have to do with style: flexibility, malleability, suction, porosity, pressure, rarefaction, condensation, and so on. (It has been said that Swift's Journal to Stella is too repetitive, which it is. Stella does hear the same thing too often.) 

About Boyle's time, Christopher Wren tried to solve the problem of heaviness and lightness in St. Paul's Cathedral. Architecture has those two opposites, which all art has, and science has too. A gale, a hurricane, is a study in lightness and force.

So at this time we can ask, what had Boyle to learn? Every writer has something to learn. This is part of education in its fullest sense.  black diamond

*Henry Craik, ed., English Prose Selections, with Critical Introductions by Various Writers (1894), 3:63-64.

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Aesthetic Realism is based on these
principles, stated by Eli Siegel:

1. The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.


2. The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it .... Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.


3. All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.

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The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known (TRO) is a biweekly periodical of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.
Editor: Ellen Reiss
Coordinators: Nancy Huntting, Meryl Simon, Steven Weiner

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TRO: Home |  Current |  Art |  Literature |  Racism |  Education |  Nat'l Ethics |  Love |  Economics |  Memorial |  Site Map
"Is a Person an Aesthetic Situation?" by Eli Siegel: a short explanation of Aesthetic Realism
The Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company in New York City. Authors in the repertory include Ibsen, Sheridan, Shakespeare, O'Neill.
Ellen Reiss, Commentaries in TRO:
The Mideast  |  Poetry of Eli Siegel |  Unions
Lord Byron |  Harry Potter |  Sherlock Holmes
Robert Burns |  The 'criticism' of John Keats
Racism & Its Solution
Aesthetic Realism Resources:
Aesthetic Realism Consultations
Two Biographies of Eli Siegel:
[1] Aesthetic Realism Foundation
[2] Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company Site
Friends of Aesthetic Realism—Countering the Lies
Art and Literature:
The Terrain Gallery / Aesthetic Realism Foundation
The Place of Aesthetic Realism in Culture & Literature

The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method:
Lesson Plans in Diverse Subjects
Teaching Indian Culture in the United States:
The Aesthetic Realism Method
Further Resources:
Essays and News Pieces about Aesthetic Realism
Photographic Education: the Aesthetic Realism Viewpoint
A New Perspective for Anthropology: The Aesthetic Realism Method
Self-Expression and What Interferes: an Aesthetic Realism Discussion
John Singer Sargent's Madame X, an Aesthetic Realism Discussion

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