On Education and Art's Importance


#1

I presented the following exercise at a Chicana/o Studies class in L.A., by request of the professor for the “It Takes A Barrio” project. I feel like it’s rawer and undeveloped than I want, but what the heck. :slight_smile: I’ve been inspired by Mindy’s thread at The role of artmaking (thank you, Mindy!)


EMPIRE

“For without culture or holiness, which are always the gift of a very few,
a man may renounce wealth or any other external thing, but he cannot
renounce hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge. Culture is the sanctity of
the intellect.” --William Butler Yeats

The following statements attempts to put a context on education and its
relevance to civilization.

Proposed:

That civilization is oriented around the maintenance and continuation of
cities;

That cities can be defined as a confined set of human habitations that
cannot sustain themselves solely on local resources;

That non-local resources cannot always be obtained without the use of
force and/or exploitation.

Resolved:

That the ultimate end of a civilization, as proposed above, will be a
well-governed society that promotes the welfare of the deserving (as
defined by that civilization and preferably covering as many
citizens as possible) over the welfare of the dis-empowered
(preferably as few citizens as possible, but realistically as many
as are needed to empower the deserving).

Purpose of education: Maintain the Status Quo.

Perception of Students: Receptive vessels.

Emergent Questions:

What makes a civilized adult?

How do we raise an obedient citizen?

How do we create a productive citizen?

Educational Framework: Fill the vessel

Ideally, educational systems will bear a striking resemblance to agriculture.
At each stage in a student’s life, knowledge is presented and the
earnest, hardworking student succeeds to progress to the next level,
ending in a productive, obedient and harmonious citizen. Students
that do not progress may receive supplementation as necessary.

Realistically, educational systems will emerge as pyramidal in nature, with a
minority reaching the highest levels of mastery in a specific
category and the rest falling somewhere else along a spectrum of
knowledge.

A proper student has:

their perceptions aligned with society;
their body not in a place of dis-ease;
their heart accepting of their position;
their connections to world mediated by learned social mores.


INDIGENE

“We must be willing in our lifetime to deal with reality. It’s not
revolution; it’s liberation. We want to be free of a value system
that’s being imposed on us… Liberation --we want to be free. But in
order for us to be free we have to assume…our responsibility. We
are going to have to struggle for it. We are going to have to work
[and be] committed to it.”–John Trudell

The following statements attempts to put a context on education and its
relevance to uncivilized cultures (yes, the word ‘uncivilized’ is
being used deliberately and provocatively).

Proposed:

That culture is oriented around the connection of society with its local
environment;

That a healthy culture can be defined as a set of human habitations that
can sustain themselves indefinitely on local resources;

That local resources cannot always be obtained without a maximum use of
effort and/or wits.

Resolved:

That the ultimate end of a proper culture, as proposed, will be an
adaptive paradigm that promotes the welfare of the community (and
the environment that sustains it) over the welfare of the few.

Purpose of education: Adapt the Status Quo.

Perception of Students: Emergent aggregates.

Emergent Questions:

What makes an empowered adult?

How do we raise a wise and insightful member of our community?

How do we create an effective member of our community?

Educational Framework: Quicken the aggregate

[Insert Picture 1: Anthony Aveni People and the Sky: Our Ancestors and the Cosmos, Thames & Hudson, 2008, p. 131]

There’s a common indigenous symbol known as the solar cross (though for this discussion, a
specific variant known as the pecked cross—a mesoamerican symbol found in Teotihuacan—will be used). The solar cross often represents four quarters: Mind, Body, Heart and Spirit. For the purposes of education, the crossed circle forms a strategy for allowing a student to grow and flower in its given environment.

A proper student has:

their senses aligned with their perceptions (Mind)
their body in a healthy state. (Body)
their heart emotionally secure (Emotions)
their connections to the forces outside of their self as positive experiences. (Spirit, also known as Art)

Note that the first three are connected solely to the student’s internal
perceptions. The last operates on the idea that –everything-- is
Other and through creativity and the arts you can make a vital
connection. The circles within a pecked cross represent the ways a
student can access information relevant to their success.

Inner circle: their own experiences

Outer circle: The experiences of family and friends, connected primarily through stories, shared activities and creative endeavors.

Outside the circles: the world, as defined by the day-to-day experience of the student.


DISCUSSION
(Small Group Breakout)

The Empire / Indigene frameworks are meant to highlight two distinctly
systems of thoughts that are at play in the world. At the end of a
ten-minute discussion, each group will be invited to share their
salient points with the class.

Guided Questions

These are offered as springboards for discussion. Your group is also
welcome to offer its own points.

What kind of students would directly benefit from an indigenous
educational framework?

Are there enough resources and time to successfully conduct a
re-orientation from one framework to another?

How can one teach a successful ‘uncivilized’ curriculum within a
fundamentally opposed culture? What steps would you have to take to
support such a curriculum?

Can students trained in an indigenous curriculum survive in an imperial
world?

Is the Indigene framework relevant in the face of the dominance of the
current civilization?


#2

This is great, Bill. Thanks for sharing!

[quote=“ThomasMaxwell, post:1, topic:1992”]
A proper student has:

their senses aligned with their perceptions (Mind)
their body in a healthy state. (Body)
their heart emotionally secure (Emotions)
their connections to the forces outside of their self as positive experiences. (Spirit, also known as Art)[/quote]

“Spirit, also known as Art.” I love this. Also “through creativity and the arts you can make a vital connection.” That’s the artmaking/communicating with the earth/connection thing I was talking about in the other thread. Artmaking being about participating. We’re all artists, we’re all weaving something together.

How’d the Chicana/o Studies class respond to your exercise?


#3

They responded well and also took it as a call to action. Very motivated class…