Choosing a direction

A comment on yesterday’s post noted that minimising ugliness is a highly desirable approach to take for many students, given how ugly their worlds are with poverty, violence, bullying. I completely agree that these things should be minimised but this is a commitment that we should be making as a society, not leaving to education. Yes, education is the best way to reduce these problems but that requires effective education and, for that, I return to my point that a standard of acceptable plainness is just not enough when we plan and design education. It’s not enough that our teaching be tolerable, it should be amazing, precisely because of the potential benefits to our society. 

If, in education, we only seek a minimum bar then the chances of us achieving more than that are reduced and we probably won’t have a good measure of “better” should it occur. We can’t take intentional actions to change something that we’re not measuring. 

Many of the ugliest problems in society have arisen from short-sighted thinking, fixes that are the definition of plain instead of beautiful or inspiring, and from not having a committed vision to aim for better. That’s why I’m so heavily focused on beauty and aesthetics in education, to provide a basis for vision that is manageable sized yet sufficiently powerful. 

I won’t (I can’t) address every equity issue, every unfair thing, or every terrible aspect of modern educational practice in these pieces. But I hope to motivate, over time, why this rather philosophical approach is a good basis for visionary improvements to education.  


One Comment on “Choosing a direction”

  1. Good answer, but bullying (by fellow students and by staff) is often a direct consequence of our current educational system and needs to be addressed by the system. Same for social promotion and racial preferences—these are not external to the educational system but built into the system.

    I agree that it is good to have a vision beyond the minimum level of adequacy—the last decade has focussed too much on having everyone meet a very low standard and given up on excellence. But I think that there needs to be equal attention paid to increasing “beauty” and reducing “ugliness” in our educational system. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to give equal attention to both—just that the overall effort be balanced. So it is fine that your personal focus is on increasing beauty, as long as you don’t advocate that everyone should be so focused.


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