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"SenseAbility: Art and Design Education are Bringing Beauty Back to the Basics"


Sense of beauty is one kind of literacy, aesthetic education is part of a holistic education, and the Ministry of Education has been promoting aesthetic education for the last five years. “Each Lesson in Life”, an exhibition devoted to achievements in aesthetic education, was held from August 2 to September 9, 2018 at Taipei’s Huashan 1914 Creative Park and the Kaohsiung Pier 2 Art Center. This exhibition included the on- the-spot, creative explorations of around one hundred teachers and students, and works of eight aesthetic practitioners. The exhibition conveyed the idea of “aesthetic education begins with personal feelings”.
Taiwan is a very special place: we have delicacies, sky lanterns and high density of convenience stores; it is also a happy place: our society is safe; our people pay attention to environmental protection and value good manners. But is it possible for us to make a “sense of beauty” the true essence and foundation of our Taiwanese identity and our happiness? Based on this idea, around a hundred of teachers and students have been experimenting with new ways to make our lives better in this new era. 

“Everyone loves beautiful things,” said C. David Tseng, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National Chiao-Tung University and involved in the implementation of this project. “Instead of seeing aesthetic education as a less important ‘subject’ within the 5 Ways of Life (moral education, intellectual education, physical education, social education and aesthetic education), it is better to see a sense of beauty as something that can encourage learning, and literacy as something which can integrate what students have learned in different disciplines. For example, “sense of beauty-intelligence” refers to the ability to see the problems and overcome them, which is an essential goal of our current educational system.” Dean Tseng pointed out that the White Paper on Education recently published by Harvard University saw this ability as being essential to science and technology education; however, this “different” approach to education needs to be further studied and developed. On-site documentary film demonstrates the achievements of Taiwanese teachers and students who had participated in the "aesthetic education" experiment.

For example, “If Memory Has Color” tells the story of teachers at Xiyu Junior High School in rural Penghu County, who had to face the fact that students needed to leave their hometown in order to study and earn a living after graduating. Hoping that students would not forget their hometown, the teachers encouraged them to take inspiration from the ocean they could see every day, and advised them to create memory puzzles using keen observation and bold colors.  

The pursuit of beauty and aesthetics can generate strength because it makes us think further: for example, will we still remember the beauty of our hometown when we grow up? What features might make Penghu or even Taiwan still more beautiful? Could it be new colors, new scents carried in the air? Can we easily tell our foreign friends what we best remember about the beauty of our hometown? How can we make “beauty” an important feature and source of happiness for Taiwan in the future?
Guided by aesthetic education seed teachers and through their everyday observations, their experience of beauty and their creativity, young Taiwanese students created works inspired by colors in the hometown, form of plants, uniform materials, storage in the classroom, foods and festivals, and magazines in life. The exhibition combined “concept”, “teaching method” and “course design” through education rationale, learning tools, documentaries, informational images, and results of experiments and of the professional practice of students and teachers. A true journey of discovery, exploration and creation was undertaken.

Things we encounter in our daily life may inspire us and help to develop our sense of beauty. Again, this exhibition’s theme was “Aesthetics: life and learning”, and it often pointed out that beautiful things can be the driving force of learning. Through observation, exploration and practice across academic disciplines, a sense of beauty can become a vital tool for future academic learning and self-learning.

The improvement of the sense of beauty was a progress in education and methodology. In addition to demonstrating the achievements of "aesthetic education", there were also various workshops to directly let the public get in touch with the new aesthetic education, thus shorten the distance between the arts and the general public. It showed that aesthetics, the understanding and appreciation of beauty in all its forms, is like science as it is immediately self-evident and self-verifying.