Education is an Art – Not a Science
by Christine Natale
What is Science?
Let’s begin by trying to get a real, working understanding of how Science is actually defined.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Science (from Latin: scientia meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world. An older and closely related meaning still in use today is that of Aristotle, for whom scientific knowledge was a body of reliable knowledge that can be logically and rationally explained (see “History and etymology” section below).
Main article: Scientific method
A scientific method seeks to explain the events of nature in a reproducible way, and to use these findings to make useful predictions. This is done partly through observation of natural phenomena, but also through experimentation that tries to simulate natural events under controlled conditions. Taken in its entirety, a scientific method allows for highly creative problem solving whilst minimizing any effects of subjective bias on the part of its users (namely the confirmation bias).
Main article: Criticism of science
Historian Jacques Barzun termed science “a faith as fanatical as any in history” and warned against the use of scientific thought to suppress considerations of meaning as integral to human existence. Many recent thinkers, such as Carolyn Merchant, Theodor Adorno and E. F. Schumacher considered that the 17th century scientific revolution shifted science from a focus on understanding nature, or wisdom, to a focus on manipulating nature, i.e. power, and that science’s emphasis on manipulating nature leads it inevitably to manipulate people, as well. Science’s focus on quantitative measures has led to critiques that it is unable to recognize important qualitative aspects of the world.
Philosopher of science Paul K Feyerabend advanced the idea of epistemological anarchism, which holds that there are no useful and exception-free methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge, and that the idea that science can or should operate according to universal and fixed rules is unrealistic, pernicious and detrimental to science itself. Feyerabend advocates treating science as an ideology alongside others such as religion, magic and mythology, and considers the dominance of science in society authoritarian and unjustified. He also contended (along with Imre Lakatos) that the demarcation problem of distinguishing science from pseudoscience on objective grounds is not possible and thus fatal to the notion of science running according to fixed, universal rules.
Ninety eight point seven percent of people in today’s world don’t have a clue what the word “science” really means. Above all, scientific methodology requires holding any thesis “with a light hand.” Being open minded and willing to examine and acknowledge incoming data (my terminology.) For the masses today, Science is actually the new Superstition or Religion.
To many people, men in white lab coats with clipboards have become a substitute archetype for men in black cassocks with rosaries. People speak about Science as they used to speak about God. And they are as little willing to work at understanding Science as people have been reluctant to truly seek God for themselves. How many people who play the “Science Says” game have looked into an electron microscope, or understand how fractals are created, or have sat up night after endless night gazing through an observatory telescope, seeking for a tiny blip that could mean the existence of a previously unknown planet or even solar system? I have not done these things myself, but I know that if I ever wanted to speak about Science with any real insight, I would have to have some of this type of experiential (epistemological) knowledge to start with.
More than half of the ideas, theories and conclusions that the population considers as “real” and validated by Science will be repudiated by Science itself within a few years at the most. There have been libraries of information once regarded as “scientific fact” that would now appear laughable. But most people do not consider this and say, “Science is constantly contradicting itself, finding its own conclusions wrong and often substituting 180 degree opposite views faster than a spinning top. Therefore, Science is not to be trusted. Science cannot give us a true perception of the world, its origins and process of development. If it could, it would always be right.”
No, people do not say this. They say, “Science (meaning the cataloging and classification of natural phenomenon) is the ONLY line of true inquiry. Science is the ONLY means of establishing truth. Science by (common) definition deals ONLY with materially measurable phenomena and therefore there cannot be any Scientific fact to be discovered outside of this materially measurable phenomena. If Science contradicts it’s own findings, that is all the more proof of its commitment to truth and the fundamental reason why we should trust it implicitly. Science may not have ALL of the answers. But only Scientific answers can have any possible value. Therefore, we will believe ONLY Scientists and those who support their work implicitly.”
What is Education?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Education in the largest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character, or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense, education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, and values from one generation to another.
Systems of formal education
Education is the process by which people learn:
- Instruction refers to the facilitating of learning, by a tutor or teacher.
- Teaching refers to the actions of an instructor to impart learning to the student.
- Learning refers to those who are taught, with a view toward preparing them with specific knowledge, skills, or abilities that can be applied upon completion.
Main article: History of education
The history of education according to Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universität Berlin 1994, “began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770”. Education as a science cannot be separated from the educational traditions that existed before. Adults trained the young of their society in the knowledge and skills they would need to master and eventually pass on. The evolution of culture, and human beings as a species depended on this practice of transmitting knowledge. In pre-literate societies this was achieved orally and through imitation. Story-telling continued from one generation to the next. Oral language developed into written symbols and letters. The depth and breadth of knowledge that could be preserved and passed soon increased exponentially. When cultures began to extend their knowledge beyond the basic skills of communicating, trading, gathering food, religious practices, etc., formal education, and schooling, eventually followed. Schooling in this sense was already in place in Egypt between 3000 and 500BC.The history of education is the history of man as since it’s the main occupation of man to pass knowledge, skills and attitude from one generation to the other so is education.
Mainstream education in today’s world seeks to be “scientific.” We tend to place a very high value on efficiency, maximum production value and economic achievement. We are still highly involved in the paradigms of the Industrial Revolution which seek the maximum production value and economic return from the most efficient and cost effective production methods. Industry has depended on Science and the scientific method to achieve mechanical production systems in which there is little left to chance and defective production is brought as close to nil as possible. Since we have achieved an apparent measure of “success” (i.e. physical comfort and convenience) using these methods, it is a fairly logical extension to want to apply them to most areas of our lives. We expect our health care to be almost infallible and we exact huge sums of compensation when it doesn’t meet those expectations. This in spite of the reality that while medicine has used science, especially natural science and the observations botany, chemistry and biology, it has never had a 100% “success” rate. Doctors have always “lost patients” despite their best efforts and society has in the past accepted that there are many factors at work in the human being besides what can be deduced or applied to each case.
People throughout history have also had this more “common sense” approach to education. It is still patently obvious to most people if they stop to consider, that a classroom full of children having the same teacher and educational approach will not have the same results. Some children will easily and eagerly absorb the material a teacher is presenting on a given day. Other children will find the same material and method of presentation obscure and confusing. Among the rest of the class will be many variations between these two experiences. A test can be given to try to measure how much each child has understood and retained on the given subject. One or two may be able to answer all of the questions correctly, one or two may not be able to answer any. Out of a theoretical 100 questions, we have developed a quick and convenient shorthand of measurement called “grading”. But even two children who get the same number of questions right, say 60 out of 100, may not get the actual same questions right or wrong. We can be satisfied if a certain percentage of the children get a certain percentage of the questions right. We can and do apply this kind of quantitative measurement on a daily basis and over longer periods of time to try to measure retention and the increasing development of overall comprehension. In today’s world, this kind of measurement has become the end all and be all purpose of education. We have come to expect the level of infallibility and high percentage of “successful” results as we do in medicine. We use economic levers to reward or punish school systems, schools and teachers based on these assumptions.
In order to achieve results that can be duplicated, measured and quantified, our current educational system must attempt to make the classroom a kind of laboratory. In a laboratory, everything needs to be as antiseptic as possible, in order to ensure that the results of whatever testing takes place are not contaminated by outside influences or elements. The scientist is expected to suspend his or her mental and emotional preferences and preconceptions in order to keep them from “contaminating” the results of the experiment. Logically then, the teacher, the primary vessel of the educational content, should also be as empty as possible. At the very least, he or she should take off all that constitutes personality and opinion at the door of the school room and garb themselves in the sterile lab coat of accepted social and political points of view. Every piece of information that is inserted into the heads of the children should be carefully weighed and measured and double checked for purity and appropriateness.
However, education is not a Science. A classroom can never be a laboratory. Even if every care possible were to be taken to provide this kind of sterile environment and carefully measured formula of information and experiential content, it would be impossible to fully factor in what each child brings into the classroom on any given day. Below, there is a chart of 100 basic factors that can affect each child’s ability to “learn” at any point in time. This is not a complete list of possibilities, by any means. So before relying on our testing results, we ought to include these factors for each child in our “experiment.” Obviously, this could never be possible for every child in every class every day of the school year.
What is Art?
(Excerpts) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings. The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics, and even disciplines such as history and psychology analyze its relationship with humans and generations.
Traditionally, the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery. This conception changed during the Romantic period, when art came to be seen as “a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science”. Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions. (my emphasis)
The nature of art has been described by Wollheim as “one of the most elusive of the traditional problems of human culture”. It has been defined as a vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas, a means for exploring and appreciating formal elements for their own sake, and as mimesis or representation. Leo Tolstoy identified art as a use of indirect means to communicate from one person to another.(my emphasis)
Benedetto Croce and R.G. Collingwood advanced the idealist view that art expresses emotions, and that the work of art therefore essentially exists in the mind of the creator. The theory of art as form has its roots in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and was developed in the early twentieth century by Roger Fry and Clive Bell. Art as mimesis or representation has deep roots in the philosophy of Aristotle. More recently, thinkers influenced by Martin Heidegger have interpreted art as the means by which a community develops for itself a medium for self-expression and interpretation.(my emphasis)
The word art can describe several things: a study of creative skill, a process of using the creative skill, a product of the creative skill, or the audience’s experience with the creative skill. The creative arts (art as discipline) are a collection of disciplines (arts) that produce artworks (art as objects) that are compelled by a personal drive (art as activity) and echo or reflect a message, mood, or symbolism for the viewer to interpret (art as experience). Artworks can be defined by purposeful, creative interpretations of limitless concepts or ideas in order to communicate something to another person. They can be explicitly made for this purpose or interpreted on the basis of images or objects. Art is something that stimulates an individual’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs, or ideas through the senses. It is also an expression of an idea and it can take many different forms and serve many different purposes. Although the application of scientific knowledge to derive a new scientific theory involves skill and results in the “creation” of something new, this represents science only and is not categorized as art. (my emphasis)
“Stimulating thoughts and emotions”, “communicate from one person to another”, “stimulates and individual’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs or ideas”, “the means by which a community develops for itself a medium for self-expression and interpretation”
These descriptions of what art is in a general sense seem to me to more related to the process of what needs to happen in a classroom in order to achieve what is defined about in term of education.
“Education in the largest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character, or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense, education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, and values from one generation to another.”
Education as an Art
Our children are not laboratory rats and in the daily experience of education we only have a one time shot, we can never duplicate a day or an hour or even a minute of our experience with them. No day full of children can ever be experienced the same way twice. The results of our “experiments” cannot be fed into a computer and statistically analyzed.
A teacher may introduce a subject one day using a particular method of instruction. She may find the children responsive and enthusiastic and able to demonstrate comprehension. The very next day, she may encounter resistance, confusing and apathy to the very same subject and method. On the other hand, the opposite experience is often had. What doesn’t seem to “work” at one time is happily and easily taken up by the children a few days, weeks or months down the road.
There are days when a teacher may lean on a prepared lesson plan with relative success and other days when he needs to “throw it out the window” and try to spontaneously create an experience that can capture the children’s attention and interest. Or something may come into the classroom which captures the children’s interest and the teacher realizes that it is more important to suspend the lesson plan and use this interest to motivate the children to do research and other forms of “learning” on their own. In our current mainstream school systems, this kind of spontaneous learning experience tends to be frowned on if not expressly forbidden, due to the fact that it falls so far out of the realm of what is thought to be quantifiable. “Creative” teachers are usually viewed with suspicion and in some cases they are even punished or fired.
Few state school systems are willing or able to factor in the ineffable ingredient of “creativity” which is the process of individual integration of ideas, information, materials and internal response. “Art” is pigeonholed into limited definitions and generally thought to be an expendable “addition” to education, rather than its basic component. Creativity in a teacher is not only a requirement but often viewed as an actual threat to the authority of the school or school system itself. Most mainstream teachers do not have to know how to sing or tell stories or put on a play or puppet play or paint or draw or play a musical instrument. Even teachers who are assigned to teach an “art class” don’t have to be especially proficient. They just need to be able to convey prescribed and pre-packaged content and projects.
Most teacher certification programs in colleges today try to support and foster the “scientific” approach to education, requiring the potential teacher to learn how to follow prescribed curriculum and textbook information and lesson plans and to learn how to test and analyze the statistics of testing. There is certainly some emphasis on the emotional and mental development of children in a generalistic sense and some training on handling “behavior problems” and “classroom management.” But teachers are mostly expected to compartmentalize “intellectual” and “emotional” development.
Conventional and contemporary teacher training can give a potential teacher her access to theories and methods of instruction and evaluation. Some “alternative” educational systems may also encourage and hone some of her skills such as music, painting and storytelling but there is a quantum leap between technique and talent that no amount of training can bridge. It is certainly this writer’s opinion that having and using artistic tools and methodologies are essential to real educational experiences. It is vital to allow and encourage creativity in the teacher and allow her the freedom and trust to use every available opportunity to help each of her children to make an individual connection with the subjects presented.
At the end of the day, there will be some “failures.” There will also be “successes.” There will be children who “fail” math tests yet become renowned physicists. There will be bright and promising children who succumb to despair and fail to achieve their childhood’s promise. Most teachers will never even know which it is that he or she has achieved with the children who have come into and out of their lives.
Yes, there is more of Alchemy than “Science” at work in an effective classroom, because we have to take the best that we have inside us of Science and Art and create each day something totally unique and extraordinary. Teachers are like symphony conductors. They have to do their best to study theory, to practice technique and to try to understand how to pull together an orchestra of disparate tonalities. But all that is just preparation, for the Song that arises from the souls of the children is more than anyone could ever have imagined before it is sung.
A Teacher’s Prayer
“Lord, who am I to teach the way
to little children day by day,
so prone myself to go astray?
I teach them knowledge, but I know
how faint the flicker and how low
the candle of my knowledge glows.
I teach them power to will and do
but only now to learn anew,
my own great weakness through and through.
I teach them love for all mankind
and all God’s creatures, but I find
my love comes lagging far behind.
Lord, if their guide I still must be,
O let the little children see
the teacher leaning hard on thee.”
Christine Natale discovered Rudolf Steiner and his work at age 16 through a summer job in the Biodynamic Gardens at the Threefold Community in New York. After two years of community college in the area, Christine embarked upon a two year journey with her mentor, Rene Querido. Lucky enough to be in a small training class, Christine was able to intern at the Sacramento Waldorf School from the first of December through June with full block training experience in almost every grade and Kindergarten. Christine taught for about ten years, primarily in the Kindergarten, with one year taking a combined Fourth and Fifth Grade. During this time, she has given many lectures to the public, produced puppet theater and festival productions, co-directed young schools and been an active resource for Waldorf parents and their children.
More recently Christine has been focused on her writing. She has produced an extensive collection of children’s stories and articles on Waldorf Education and is in the process of self-publishing them. Christine brings a variety of skills in all of the arts, such as Waldorf Watercolor Painting, Crayon Drawing (and its interpretation), Handwork, Music, Drama, Puppetry, Storytelling and much more. She has a broad and deep base of knowledge of Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education, as well as a good familiarity with other educational systems and methods and an ability to draw connections and to build bridges of understanding for people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds.