For me, the purpose of education is to enrich the public's experience of the world and to promote the skills and attitudes that will further people in living a life worth living. The educator has the privileged position of being able to provide experiences that will open the student to the wonder and mystery of the world. The skilled educator will instill into their students the attitude that the world is an interesting place and is worth spending their time to study. From the great pyramids of Egypt to the humblest cylinder of backyard soil, there is always something interesting to see if we are willing to take the effort to look.
Such an attitude, that we can find happiness by taking an interest in studying the world and by taking the knowledge found and applying it to refine ourselves, stands as one of the few medicines we have to combat the growing influence of the transnational capitalist's vision of the citizen as the (debtor-)worker-consumer and its subsequent negative effects on the world.
I am against the concept of education as merely a means to find a job, or as merely a means to become useful. Ideas like these reduce humans to a tool. I am against the concept of education as merely a means to exit the lower social strata, or to buy one's way to the luxury-life. Ideas like these turn the world into an arena where everyone's scrambling to climb the ladder. Indeed, every educator recognizes their role in preparing the next generation to become productive participants in society. However, educators must not lose their sight in the pursuit of this single aim. There is more to society than just economic production and it is the educator's duty to turn the students' minds toward human culture. As an educator, I will strive to show students our unique position in history, to help them see how ideas and concepts have changed over time and be able to crystallize and reflect upon their own beliefs, both for those that were independently derived and for those that were given to them. I hope I can show them how to be happy, and maybe reflect about what it actually means to be happy.
Educators must recognize that students come from a variety of backgrounds and vary in their ability to learn material. As an educator, I will build my teaching on principles known to promote learning for all students. So frequently does the beginning art student feel daunted by the ability of an advanced peer and begins doubting their own capability. Predicaments like these are a moment to teach children about acceptance, acceptance of their own ability as well as that of others, recognizing that every human being has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Going further, this acceptance must also extend towards students with special needs. Just as an advanced student should not belittle the beginning student, the student without need for accommodations should not belittle the student who does have need. Acceptance is a crucial element in building an inclusive environment.
In meeting the individual needs of students, I will communicate to students that my expectations for them will not be lowered. Art has an interesting position in the school curricula in that its main business is to foster within the student their unique expression. For each student, the business of the educator, then, is to help that student find the modes of expression that are best suited for them. It is through these modes students will best be able to demonstrate their mastery of the material. When dealing with students with need for special accommodations, I hope it is an idea that can be extended to them in a natural way.
Many goals have been discussed thus far. Why should I try all of this through art education, rather than in mathematics (where I got my degree)? With art, there is a moment I experience in the creative process where this feeling of investment, or attachment, or love starts to take over, where the materials stop being just materials and I really just need to see the idea come to life. I think this feeling of investment and total immersion encapsulates many of the ideas that I have just written about. We've all seen the young child involved with their crayons, or the teenager in school completely lost in their drawings. I hope I can bring the students to experience that very same feeling.
With mathematics, I feel like I've always been poring into a great mystery. Mathematics with its rhythms and patterns standing unmoving I feel like I am some sort of archaeologist trying to unravel its secrets. Indeed, there is room for artfulness and creativity in mathematical proof. Math has always been interesting to me and I enjoy studying it. However, every time, studying feels like I'm leaving this world and going into another. The bridges from content knowledge and moral teaching are not as apparent in my mind as it is with art. As a topic for education, I think I could only get a few of the important lessons I wanted to teach, not all of them.