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
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
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
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
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
Arts as Education
1) nonaudible literature verbal
theatre (including radioplay, teleplay)
verbal cinema (including telefilm,
1) audible literature (also concrete poetry) nonverbal theatre
(mime, puppet, vaudeville) nonverbal cinema (silent cinema,
2) abstract graphic (stable
abstract sculpture (stable or
abstract photography (stable
2) representational graphic
3) nonverbal music
(instrumental, nonverbal vocal)
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
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
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
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.