II. Learn to Learn
So then, the reason we educate is so that young men and women can start down the path of a lifetime of learning. Art education is in the center of this because it teaches us how to perceive which in turn is applied to every component of our being. The more we perceive, the more we learn. The better we learn how to perceive, the better we will learn to learn.
Aesthetic education helps us to make new connections in the things we perceive (not to mention in our brains). For example, how is a tree connected with the sky? We would all agree that they belong in the same field of vision, but what is significant about the two being in one person’s perception simultaneously? Study painting and you may begin to see something about these very normal things that you never noticed before. Write a poem and you may feel a new emotion evoked by the subjects. New connections are made because you have been taught to see things in a new and largely unexplainable way. Not only that, but you will find enjoyment you’ve never had before which will motivate you to dig deeper. New connections, when taken to much higher levels, can create entire worlds. When massive amounts of new connections are made, learning becomes inevitable.
But what is the practical value of achieving this? What are some specific examples of how this enhances a person’s education. I could simply say that people involved in the art consistently receive higher marks, but I’m not convinced that that is relevant since I am also not convinced that high marks indicate a good student. My concern is that a student becomes interested in something worthy of their attention. If a student excels at every subject but is disinterested to the point where he does not do any learning on his own, then he is not making a worthwhile amount of new connections and his education is useless. This is exactly the problem that aesthetic education conquers. Its usefulness is hidden in the depths of cognitive development and not in isolated example. It is the all-encompassing method towards becoming a more effective learner.
Aesthetic education should be at the heart of any educational institution. It is in the area of study in which the mind learns to open itself to new possibilities and insights. The inherent intuitive benefits of a rich background in the arts teaches students to approach every subject with a passionate and attentive curiosity that pursues knowledge to the ends of the earth. If this is not the purpose of education, then I fail to see why we don’t stop going to school at the age of twelve.
Become interested and engage your perception. Learn to learn. Create something that communicates past the senses.