An aesthetic approach towards life and environment is inherent to human existence. This aesthetic approach, a search for beauty and order both without and within, can never be isolated from education. What can bring itabout in education?
Our educational system often seems to locate an individual in terms of his or her excellence, by which I mean that individuals are seen in terms of goals that they strive to achieve. This is a location that does not invite participation. Participation concerns relationship; it integrates the person with his environment, his community and his society.
I see education as an inquiry; a journey that helps the individual to flower in relationship with others. Relationship involves togetherness, caring for each other, learning together, thinking together - all these are about participation, not individual excellence. There is no relationship that can occur without participation, participation in a way that does not promote the individual. Education cannot possibly happen in isolation. One has to interact with society and people and the environment around to facilitate understanding, even of oneself.
But generally our learning process has not really given space for togetherness or participation. This is not encouraged in traditional schooling, and therefore today one generally sees oneself as an isolated individual in society. One is busy pursuing 'excellence' - which has become another word for self-interest! An individual gradually narrows down and ultimately becomes concerned only with himself. This does not mean that he enquires into the truth about himself, but rather constantly makes demands; he is the self that constantly demands . happiness and pleasure - from the outside. This is the self that does not value interaction, does not cultivate relationship; it demands its own comforts. In this situation, the self fails to create or be creative.
So the pursuit of excellence that concerns itself only with skills and the intellect does not provide a space for togetherness or relating with everything around. This is the vital issue that our educational system needs to address. Today's problem is that we narrow down our space to a concern about ourselves. Very often we look at the socioeconomic state of society and find excuses out there for the way we are. For instance, even in our nuclear family structure, we do not include a fourth or fifth person. So a child growing up in this environment tends to gradually narrow down in his relationships and participation.
How can one remain calm while watching the disorder all around us? In fact, the disorder is within. Conflict begins from within, and from there it is obvious that the system will behave mechanically. Creativity is the integration of the inner and outer. When goodness, innocence, beauty and order find space within, society too will reflect an expression of this. It is my contention that it is not the limited personal search for excellence, but the participatory, collective approach that we require today. Collective understanding can bring beauty and order. Can the school as a structure, allow for or even initiate the experience of togetherness, which is the basis of creative living? It is of serious concern that we look at 'learning together' as a process of experiencing, understanding and nurturing relationship. If there is relationship, then there ismovement, there is energy. If one cannot create this relationship, then one tends to be static, and there can be no movement within.
Thus, reflecting on an education that is more creative, where there is space for self-enquiry, I see the need to evolve a structure that does not look for individual excellence, but understands and validates different expressions. It creates space for both an invitation and a challenge to participate. Here there is no space for rejection - a strongly negative factor in our educational system. The right education will create space for the known and the unknown, the more skilled or intelligent and the less skilled or intelligent. Here, questions of acceptance or rejection, useful or useless, do not arise. Each of us will observe situations, understand and ultimately show concern.
A key feature of the school that we work in is the constant process of interacting and sharing. In this situation there is an attempt to keep the creative space very much alive. Students and teachers are very much in the process of relating with each other. Creative education in these schools has a special place and we need to nurture it. We also need to interact with other schools, encouraging group activities, moving together and understanding each others. values. This is the aesthetic approach to education that I am concerned with.