EVERY SOCIETY ARRANGES for some education of its young.  This education may be looked upon as the conscious aspect of the wider process whereby a human being becomes a member of the society, of some community of people sharing their life and a party to the culture, the lifeways of that society-in short, the process whereby a human being becomes a person, gains a personality of some sort.  Thus, education is an aspect of the twin processes of ensocialization and enculturation, to assign them their technical terms. Looked at this way, education may be said to continue even beyond the youth of the educand.


            Every society may also arrange for some education of those entering it from the outside and thus education correspondingly becomes an aspect of the twin processes of adsocialization and acculturation.  The outsider may be young or adult.  The inside-outside distinction may also obtain within a community, as when Eliza Doolittle engages the services of Professor Higgins in Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion or when Monsieur Le Bourgeois gentithomme.


            Why does a society take this trouble? There are two very good reasons why it does this.  A human being, unlike many animals, is not born fully equipped genetically to cope with life.  What genetic equipment he has needs opportunities to develop adequately and may also need to be supplemented.  There is also a second reason based on the principle that prevention is better than cure.  By inculcating into the young a sense of belongingness  and an approved way of life, society simplifies the job of the social regulation of its members.  By catching them young society hopes to make them more tractable in future.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a critical politician puts education in the Home Ministry as an instrument of law and order and looks upon it as the optium of the exploited.


            Education achieves these twin goals by imparting socially relevant facts and insights, socially relevant facts and insights, attitudes and skills.  The facts support the insights and the insights help make sense of the facts.  The attitudes motivate the acquisition and maintenance of skills, the skills support the attitudes.  But , fortunately for the spiritual health of mankind, this very imparting of socially relevant educational content in the course of education may also act partially as a quietly and constructively subversive force.  The founding fathers of the nineteenth century Indian Enlightment grasped this very well indeed.  For the regeneration and transformation of the Indian society as a whole or for any desired fragment the watchword was, education. Even Deoband Darul Islam and Aligarh Muslim University, Kangri Gurukul and Anglo-Vedic Colleges conform to this pattern alongside of education for women and for the Dalits, for the workers and for the leaders in different walks of life.  Even at a less deliberate level, education can take on a subversive character.  An apparently innocuous programme like the spread of literacy could have such an effect.


            Conformation and subversion constitute the two faces of education.  But maybe this is too harsh and too dialectical a way of putting the matter.  The Maya people of Central America do it in a such more humane manner in one of their sayings :


            For in the baby lies the future of the world : Mother must hold the baby close so that the baby knows that it is his world; Father must take him to the highest hill so that he can see what his world is like.


            The dialectical opposition is now seen also to be a natural continuity.  What can sustain subversion in a person except the knowledge deep inside that it is his world?  What is the point of conformation except as a place to go from in order to reach the highest hill that the person is capable of climbing?  Art can both be a mother and a father-but I am anticipating.


            We have spoken of education as an imparting of content.  But this is a gross simplification.  This imparting is really an inducing and a controlling of the learning process.  The educator induces and then controls a modification in the available behaviour patterns through a manipulation of the patterns of available experience.  He may inhibit or encourage this or hat incipient or established behaviour pattern.  (This is the preventive and remedial phase of education). The changes in the behaviour patterns, namely, the facts and insights, attitudes and skills so acquired constitute the content of education.  The manipulation of available experience constitutes the medium of education.  This medium is typically but not exclusively language-including the language of mathematics.  Languages makes available an experience and helps us to make sense of experience even when the experience is either not available or not intelligible.  Language is indeed a powerful and widely used medium of education.  The father wishing to keep his son away form smoking blandly says, “Do as I say to you, don’t do as I do.”  But there are other media that are more immediate than language—sight and sound, play and play-acting laboratory work workshop practice, field-work and work experience are some of the other available media.


            THE ARTS CAN ALSO BE the medium of education.  We are not thinking here of the arts as an object of academic study (whether critical, philosophical, scholarly, historical, psychological, ethnological, or sociological), nor yet of the arts as skills and techniques to be acquired in the course of education, not even of education art of the kind undertaken by the great Vishnu Digambar who set out to make kansens rather than Tansens out of his pupils.  Rather are we concerned with the arts themselves as education, as media of education.  Now, if one claims that exposure of some works of art or some forms of art enhances one’s sensitivity to other works of art or other forms of art, such a limited claim for the arts as media of education will be readily conceded by most people.  But I am staking a larger claim, namely, that an exposure to the arts prepares us to cope with life and to enjoy life even better.  In so considering the arts we run counter to two somewhat different, even opposed views of art that nevertheless converge at this point.  There is the more democratic view of art as decoration, entertainment, or escape.  Art is here seen to be no more than a satisfaction of stimulus hunger, pattern hunger, a mode of structure.


Art as Education


Turing space and time thus to remain totally innocent of any larger relevance to the serious concerns of life such as earning a living or sharing of power. If this is the right and sufficient way of looking at art, how can art figure as education?  Who can say that music debilitates the spirit?  (Plato and Aurangzeb did.) Who says that movies induce crime?  And who says that a poem or a play can change one’s who life for the better? Art can neither educate us nor miseducate us according to this view. And there is the more aristocratic view of art as purposivendess without purpose kant as significant form clive Bell as an amoral presentation of life.   Art is here seen to be no more than a satisfaction of a special craving found in the few so endowed, say, with a musical ear and, if they are luckier, with a musical voice.  How can art be available for such a base practical business as education?  If applied art is a distasteful expression, educative art is even more so.


            Before we proceed we must get this point out of the way.  We can begin by making two concessions.  First, in considering art as education we may have to distinguish high art and low art.   (The expression high art being no more than a convenient shorthand for scared or éite or repertory art and the expression low art for folk or popular or mass-consumed art.  What is low art for one generation or people may get accepted as high art for another generation people.  Each generation decides what to save from the earlier generations-the works so saved constitute is repertory.  May one may find the shorthand high and low art obnoxious in that it keeps suggesting values judgements that are not indeed.  A more radical solution t the terminological difficulty is to relocate the destination the mode of operation of the two kinds of art.  The so-called ‘low art’ is art that builds on your hunger or absence of satisfaction and ends up leaving the person more than satisfied; it is the art of satisfaction.  The so-called ‘high art’ is the art that builds on the person’s complacency or absence of dissatisfaction and ends up leaving the person more than dissatisfied by offering a new point of view; it is the art of transcendence.  Naturally, art that is more communal in origin and appeal tends to be art of satiation and art that is more personal in origin and appeal tends to be art of transcendence. Is at liberty to substitute personal art for high art and communal art for low art.)   The are talks of art can be media or education in their own distinctive ways.  There is no justification for sweeping of satisfaction  under the carpet by denying it the epithet art (as the aristocrats are prone to do.  Secondly, art may certainly function as decoration, entertainment, escape, purposive ness without purpose, amoral comment, and all that. In claiming that the arts could be educative it is not necessary to disclaim that the arts could be any of these other things.  What is necessary here is that we take a special view of art-we may pay more attention to what it does to the recipient than to that it could mean to him or what it does to the artist.  We are for the time being so to pay taking a more receipent-centred, more function-centred view of art.  In rejecting the democratic objection, we are disclaiming that the satisfaction of stimulus hunger or pattern or human contest hunger satiatin can only be a trivial matter. Art of claims so much energy and resources precisely because it satisfies these hungers at a deeper level in that art of satiation tells the child and the child in each of us that the world is ours. In rejecting the aristocratic objection, we were disclaiming that there is an unbridgeable gap between the useful arts and the fine arts—important as the distinction between the two is.  Art is inseparable from and  continuous with craft.  Art is robust enough to assimilate even mechanization and technology as in architecture and cinema.  It is all a question of exercising skills rooted in the implementation of precise rules controlling the values of each variable.  So it should not come as a surprise that an intrinsically purposeless art object may also figure as extrinsically useful.  An artifact may turn up with secondary uses, a hammer may be used not for driving nails but for holding down flying papers, a statue may be handy as a missile in the hands of an angry wife.  There is nothing to prevent an object of fine art from also acting as a purveyor of insights and attitudes, as apiece of vicarious experience, as a moulder and shaper of our vision.  We are not suggesting that the artist is an educator, but rather that the recipient of art could be an educand.  That would appear to be the point underlying Oscarwilde’s bon mot hat life imitates art.  Even the popularly decried and ridiculed modern art has profoundly affected popular textile and furniture design : it has, shall we say, educated popular taste.  Even the literary novel has profoundly affected the best seller, the best seller makes a secondary breakthrough in popular taste and in turn affects the pulp novel.  A similar chain effect is beginning to be seen in cinema.  Art of transcendence precisely because it performs this avant-grade, subversive function and lets us see things from the highest hill.


            To say that art of satiation is conformative education and that art of transcendence is subversive education is undoubtedly a simplification that should not be pushed too far. The dichotomy serves to bring out the vital distinction between the celebration of what is shared (whether it is the shared glory of a golden past or the shared hardship of the Great War or the Great depression or the shared life style) or even shared violations of mores (as in song, theatre, and dance associated with the Holi festival) and the articulation of the personal and innovative mode of perception (whether it is the innovative perception of cubist painting or of atonal music or of Verfremdungseflekt in Brenchtian  theatre or of the moral vision of Ibsen’s theatre).  But the dichotomy can be positively misleading if one ignores how great art (whether it is great low art like the Chaplin cinema or West African wood sculpture or great high art like Shakespearean tragedy or Beethoven’s symphonies) very often transcends the distinction between conformation and subversion, the deeply shared and the deeply personal.


THE GRAND ABSTRACTION on the Fine Arts ofcourse conceals how very different and distinctive the various arts could be when compared among themselves.  It is for nothing that any serious art education programme has to take due cognizance of highly variable special aptitudes for the various arts-the musical ear, the painterly eye, the sense of humour, the lyrical vein, and so forth.  The fine arts have been grouped and arranged in various ways dependent on the chosen criterion-the handling of space and time, the channel of intake, fictive status of content, the nature of the virtuality or the illusion, and so forth.  For the present purpose we are interested in gauging the availability of the various arts as media of education.


            To this end we shall start with the distinction between the material of an art, the content of an art, and the medium of an art that integrates the first two.  Thus, for representational sculpture, whatever can be carved, moulded, cast, strung out and the like constitutes its material; whatever can be seen as occupied space, encountered in tactile exploration, felt as penetrable surface constitutes its content; and faunally masses, textures, volumes in a three-dimensional stabile or a four-dimensional mobile constitute its medium.  Keeping this distinction in view we could then distinguish between three kinds of fine arts—those in which material dominates material, indeed content is offered as material; and finally those in which material and content are in balance and serve to define each other.  The three kinds, let’s call them (a), (b), and (c) for convenience, are analogous to the three modes of economic exchange by barter by paper money, and by gold money.  (Let it be borne in mind that the analogue of material is the exchange vehicle and the analogue of content is the commodity exchanged.  Applying this division we arrive at the following grouping :


Arts as Education






1) nonaudible literature verbal theatre (including radioplay, teleplay)

verbal cinema (including telefilm, comic strip)


1) audible literature  (also concrete poetry) nonverbal theatre (mime, puppet, vaudeville) nonverbal cinema (silent cinema, cartoon cinema

2) abstract graphic (stable or mobile)

abstract sculpture (stable or mobile)

abstract photography (stable or mobile)


2) representational graphic

representational sculpture

representational photography


3) nonverbal music

(instrumental, nonverbal vocal)

abstract dance



3) verbal music

(possibly with instrumental accompaniment) dramatic dance (n¤typa, ballet)

4) decorative design

(including certain kinds of interior design and of calligraphy

4) functional design

(including certain kinds of interior design and of calligraphy

4) expressive design

(architecture, landscaping, town-planning


            What  are the special strengths of the fine arts of each kind as media of education?


           Kind (a) arts are the ones in whose medium the material dominates the content.  They chiefly educate our senses and sense perception, our perception of abstract form in general , our movements and our actions and some of this education may rub off into related crafts of decoration, entertainment, and the like.  Abstract dance, for example, will impart grace and strength to our movements. (A good deal of folk dance is non-representational or abstract).


           Kind (b) arts are the ones in whose medium the content dominates the material.  They chiefly educate our understanding of the world, our sense of functional economy.  The content is presented abstractly, as a universal without the stresses and threats, moral urgencies and political exigencies of direct immersion in life, but it also presented concretely without the strain of intellection, with full rein to intuition.  They are a paradigmatic example of Hegel’s concrete universals.  Like the counsel of a wife, say the ancient Indians, theirs is a counsel that is beneficial and palatable, spoken and unspoken at the same time.  Humour, ‘human interest’ story to use the journalist’s jargon), and song have always been pressed into service to put across unpalatable or dull or intractable content.


           Kind (c) arts are in between : they have a little of the strength of kind (a) arts as well as of kind (b) arts,


BY WAY OF CONCLUDING we shall present  a case study-of literature as a medium of education.  Literature can be a medium of informal  and nonformal education or literature can also be a medium of formal education.  In the latter situation the formal courses will be planned as a ‘general’ course whether obligatory or optional to be offered by a student whose specialization may lie elsewhere. They should not be mere miniature versions of the ‘honours’ course as they all too often are but should be set up in a fundamentally different way.  Thus, in a General English course the teacher expects the student to pay more attention to content than to form. Consequently translations from other languages to English would be as welcome as works originally written in English.  Discursive texts will also find a place in it by the side of works of literary art.  The pieces will be studied not for their own sake (as in an ‘honours’ course) but rather as a springboard to the learner’s thinking and imagination. Fiction and discursive essay are calculated to develop intellectuality social sensibility.  The more poetic texts are calculated to develop aesthetic and moral sensibility.


            When one speaks of English as a window to the West and to the modern world, when one speaks of a classical language as a window to the ancient heritage, and when one speaks of the regional language as a passage to the wider world beyond the family and the neighbourhood, one is not merely speaking of the language concerned, but also speaking  of literature as education.  Classical language literature could just as well be introduced in translation into a more available language.  Literature form modern Indian languages other than one’s own or other than one’s regional language may also be introduced in translation into a more available languages.  When a non-Marathi student in Maharashtra reads Marathi literature or when a Marathi student reads Gujarati or kannada literature perhaps in  a Marathi or a Hindi translation, it will provide him with an entry into the respective regional ways of life. Such an access will lend more substance to any talk of emotional integration of the different regions or different communities in India.  Admittedly, such an access to another culture may remain highly selective and occasional in significance-as when Yeats read Tagore, when Indian poets read Palgrave’s Golden Treasure, when Fitzgerald  read Omar Khayyam, or when European poets took to the Japanese haiku.  The gap that literature spans may be a geographical gap, a time gap of the person’s age or historical period, or any other gap which limits access to experience (as when a male takes peek at a women’s magazine, an upper-caste Hindu reads Dalit literature, and so forth).  


            Fiction as well as verbal cinema may also be used in conjunction with courses in history or sociology or anthropology or even psychology.  Their educational function may go beyond the function of a pictorial illustration in a geography or biology textbook.  They may bring home or illumine or even stimulate some basic insight of the discipline concerned.


            When we advocate the encouragement of an intermediate cinema or of a university film society movement or the setting up of a humanistic department in an institute of engineering or medicine or technology or the proliferation of public libraries and art galleries or the availability of cheap editions of the classics, we are not merely advocating the making accessible of an art for those who have an aptitude and an appetite for it but also raising hopes for a wider diffusion of an aesthetic, moral, social, and intellectual sensibility and for a quieter and more lasting regeneration of culture.  In other words we are simply banking on art as conformative and subversive education.



            An earlier version emitted ‘Literature as a medium of education was presented at a seminar in the Department of English, University of Poona, 22-26 Feb 1982.  The present   was presented at a seminar on Art Education in Social Perspective, Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, 23-26 February 1983.