What is wrong with TEACHING art?

To begin with what is the purpose of beauty in human life? Just as what is the purpose of knowledge in human life.

At times it is important to revisit these issues as there is a hue and cry about school killing creativity, there is a talk of innovation etc.

Before Art education is introduced in schools it may be worth while to understand the impact of art, design and architectural education at higher education and how does this affect the Aesthetic sensibilities of the students who go through this education.

Homogenization of aesthetic sense brought about through education is destroying all cultural diversity. The visual experience of modern spaces all over the world is beginning to look alike- Architecture, signage, hoardings, products, colour sense.

Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, is the only city in India that has a distinct architectural character. This is because in Srinagar architects have not had opportunity to practice architecture.

Aesthetic rootedness is what maintains cultural diversity.

To my mind if ‘art’ education treated as ‘awakening the sense/ aesthetic sensibilities’ it has the potential of making children authentic and original learners/creators.

But art education is also becoming top down and information oriented.

Once I came across a school where children were being asked to copy paintings of Van Gogh. In fact the trend in art education inUKis along this line. Tests are conducted to see whether children are able to identify works of Monet, Paul klee etc

Art is the only activity with in the school curriculam that has the potential for subverting the harm done by other subjects.

School is a strange place where children are being prepared for a distant ‘future’ by teaching them things that happened in the ‘past’. (They are turned in to historians of a different sort or storage bins of information with different names- science, English, social, math etc).

To learn/ to make sense of the world children need to engage with what is happening/ the concrete event or phenomenon.

So as per the natural tendency of the child, she is learning not what we adults want them to learn but what the biology/ nature enables them.

what they truly learn is the ‘teacher’, the ‘school’ . That is why children play ‘teacher games’ when they return home and play in fact is the process by which children make sense of the world.(Learn/ play/ work etc are divisions made by the adult mind)

In fact the teacher is dealing with the ‘form’ and never the ‘content’, because  text/word is only explanation of knowledge.

The real is ‘knowledge’ is missing.   Meanwhile children learn the un intended content of the school systems.

Authoritarianism, slave mentality, depending upon the external knowledge provider, fearing authority, blind belief etc.

The teacher is anyway dealing with second hand information there by turning the authentic, original, creative minds to second hand/ fakes who can only imitate and copy.

All original art forms are a result of  ‘Awakening aesthetic awareness’

I have been enquiring on this very issue from 1985 when I joined to study at NID.  I found every NIDian creating with similar aesthetic sensibility.   But they are from various parts of the country with different ‘cultures’.

I began to explore what once caused Cultural diversity and what is now causing cultural homogenization.  I began to explore the relation between sense, aesthetic sense, knowledge and culture.

I chose rural tribal communities as my space of work as I get to see first hand how non-mediated learning takes place.   The Ao’s of Nagaland being my first pilgrimage.   The beauty of tribal culture is unbeatable.   The beautiful homes, household articles, all made of bamboo, the shawls the woman weaves etc.   I will cut the long story short.

By 1995 I developed a process of working with craft communities where by I initiate a process of creativity by which the artisan creates from their own aesthetic sensibilities.

From 1993 I have been working with a potters community and tried out my experiment with them, See the designs created by 13/14/15 year’s old girls in 1996. http://www.re-cognition.org/crafts/coiltiles.html#


You can also see some of work by Lakshmi who has no exposure to ‘art’ books, galleries. http://my.opera.com/enableartisan/albums/show.dml?id=896327

By 2000   I also began to work with children.   Again following the principles of non interference (Other word is ‘teaching’) children began to create absolutely beautiful stuff.

WEB SITES   http://www.rediscoveringchildhood.org/sensing.htm

BLOGS   http://my.opera.com/jinankb/blog/sensing-nature

POWER POINTS http://www.authorstream.com/tag/Jinankb   http://www.slideshare.net/jinan

I draw the following conclusion from my experience.

  1. Beauty is a biological aspect with our body/being and Art is a psychological construct.
  2. Beauty is not something to be developed separately but to be present as part of our being, which gets awakened in the process of engaging with the world.
  3. Beauty is the most fundamental of human existence. Beauty is what truly makes one authentic. Beauty is what binds us to the external world. Beauty is what creates culture-the architecture, the music, the artifacts, various dance forms and agriculture.
  4. De-colonization and de-conditioning  process  is essentially a process of recovering ones authentic sense of beauty and reclaiming ones senses.
  5. All art forms have a basis in other senses and aesthetic sense is developed in the process of aesthetic /part hand engagement with the world.
  1. Rather than ‘teaching’ art what one should do is to create situations for awakening the aesthetic awareness.
  1. Children are born genius – (Genuine) artistic/scientific/spiritual/holistic.
  1. Learn from them.   They can tell us how far we have moved from our original/ natural selves.
  1. Creativity happens in innocence and humility something we have lost in the process of getting ‘educated’.
  1.  Human beings are in some sense the most helpless and with enormous capacity for self deception…


  • myselfsbs1  On March 16, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Very touching article ! I think art should be an expression of an inner experience. Your points about various reasons why art is not really rightly taught …are very valid. What could be various ways forward ?

  • Mary Drinkwater  On September 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Jinan…..do you have some published work on your research that I could cite in my doctoral thesis? Your research supports many of the arguments I am making about the important role of the arts in confronting & challenging the impacts of neoliberal ideology in a robust global democracy.

    Mary Drinkwater (OISE/U of Toronto)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: