Students talk about aesthetic education and social imagination

December 30, 2020

Students talk about aesthetic education and social imagination

In Holly Fairbank's aesthetic education course with graduate and undergraduate students from Hunter College and Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY Fall 2020 the students were asked to read two articles by Dr. Greene "Defining aesthetic education" (2002-Blue Guiter) and "Art and Imagination" (2000-Phi Delta Kappan)
To my understanding, based on Maxine Greene’s reading, aesthetic education is the cognitive and emotional process of nurturing, appreciating, reflecting, and participating in cultural engagements with art. This form of educational experiences allows one to make new connections, recognize patterns, and see new perspectives. Social imagination is the act of breaking through conventions, reflecting and becoming aware of ourselves, and taking a participatory stance when viewing art. Rather than spectating, which can restrain one to viewing the art in a fixed angle, Greene emphasizes that one must focus on the process and practice behind works of art to widen our perceptions, and in return be able to awaken our imagination. This imagination then leads to individual growth as it expands life experiences and allows one to live, as Greene puts it, “more ardently in the world”.
 Aesthetic education in classrooms, as we have seen in previous readings and discussed in class, allows for inquiry-based learning in which students can use their observations, curiosities, and personal experiences and connections to experiment using their senses, make connections, and share their thoughts and ideas with their peers. When aesthetic education is used in the classroom, students are given the opportunities to work as a team, as well as improve their cognitive (i.e. critical thinking) and emotional development (ie. empathy). Including various mode of art in curriculum instruction will also allow students to use their imagination (i.e. poetic, visual, social) to engage with the art and as a result allow for self-reflection in which they find their own purpose/cause to make changes and take action in their life.
-Hannah Cao (HC)
One of the first few sentences in “Defining Aesthetic Education,” says it all. Aesthetics is consumed of engaging the senses, using perception, and imagination to know, understand, and feel the world. It allows a being to enter a new dimension to figure out what a particular experience means to them in their own unique way while using that knowledge of the educators and artists before them; To make art what they need it to be and to grow on past, present, and future experiences. I enjoyed the analogy that Greene makes of “opening new vistas” through aesthetic education. Because of aesthetics we are constantly changing, reflecting, and making sense of life and we can help our students do the same when we connect with our whole being, such as with our emotions, nervous systems, body, and minds.
 In Maxine’s “Art and Imagination” article, she explains that through participation in artist activity we can recapture or keep our spontaneity alive. Something that can in ways be lost or not always nurtured in children. It is important as teachers to remind our youth that the conventional way is not always the way to find who we as individuals are and that to find meaning and to make changes we have to listen to our own perception, not just what is told to us. There are many ways to view one thing. Greene also makes reference to human freedom and seeing the world as it is through art, as if by uncovering it you will have the freedom and see all. Through imagination the youth are able see and become comfortable in their individuality; creating more insightful, deliberate, passionate, and articulate humans to occupy this earth.
-Valerie Keil- BMCC

After reading Maxine Greene's "Defining Aesthetic Education" and "Art and Imagination," aesthetic education is one where students can use all their senses to reflect on art that they encounter. It is one that allows students to look at art and compare it to experiences that they have been involved in or have witnessed. The idea of social imagination is that students should be able to look at something from various perspectives in order to come up with their own understanding of what is happening and how elements interact with each other.
Aesthetic education practice can impact the teaching and learning within an elementary classroom because it enables students to view things from multiple perspectives. Through this process, students are exposed to more ideas and become more understanding of differences in ideas. As a result, students can become more open when sharing their own ideas, knowing that they will not be judged for it. Aesthetic education also encourages students to ask questions so that they can learn more about a topic.
-Sandy Liang(HC)

After reading these articles I view aesthetic education as an active and participatory experience with the arts that evokes meaning for the person. For me, social imagination is a result of aesthetic education. Social imagination is creating a sense of meaning from the arts that goes against a dualistic view. Everyone can create their own meaning based on their own experiences, which follows a constructivist approach. More meanings means more perspectives, which in turn allow for more imagination and creativity. 
Aesthetic education in an elementary classroom can allow students to find their own meanings to artwork. When a student finds their own meanings they continue to make their own connections instead of relying on someone else prescribing a meaning for them. This is a form of critical thinking and fosters more creative thought that relates to themselves. Students are more likely to learn and retain information that they can relate to. Also, hearing other students' interpretations allows students to hear and become more accepting of other perspectives. 
-Michael Hemberg-HC
After reading these two docs, I would define aesthetic education as the learning process in which people gain knowledge through the different modes of art representation. It is not only making art but appreciating art, analyzing art and constructing meaning from art. Art works usually convey our world reality; when looking at them, that reality can be very different among us because of our different perspectives; However, that reality showed in an art work can make people reflect about their world and make them use their imagination to have a notion of a better world, to desire a better way of life,  feel the need to reach out a different reality and indeed change it. I guess this is what Maxine Greene referred when talked about social imagination. 
 -Laura Mejia Garzon- BMCC

After reading Maxine Greene's "Defining Aesthetic Education" and "Art and Imagination", my understanding of aesthetic education and the idea of social imagination is that they are very essential when it comes to the child’s development. I learned that you explore aesthetics with your senses and that leads to learning. I believe that some ways in which aesthetic education practice including visual arts, storytelling, dance, theater, photography, can definitely impact the teaching and learning within an elementary classroom across the curriculum because the children are allowed to create and bring their own ideas to the table. Also, because they are able to socialize and ask questions and therefore, learn from each other. 
 -Caroline Rojas- BMCC

Back to Social imagination

Upcoming Events

MGI YouTube Channel
More info

View calendar of events

Our Community

 Become a part of our community:

  • Access the Maxine Greene Library and be alerted to new additions and highlights.
  • Receive announcements on upcoming events, workshops and seminars.
  • Enter our conversations or start your own.
  • Receive  MGI Newsletter.

Click on the links below to subscribe to our community.

Join Now   Donate

Join the Conversation

Statement in Response

Statement in Response
Read more

Encounters with works of art

Encounters with works of art
Read more

Remembering Maxine

Remembering Maxine
Read more

View more conversations