Arts as Education: Embracing Aesthetic Teaching and Learning

The Power of Arts Integration in Education

In the realm of education, the arts have long been regarded as an essential component of human knowledge and culture. However, in American schools, the arts have often been marginalized, isolated from the core curriculum and confined to the fringes. This separation stems from the belief that aesthetic ways of knowing are less valuable or cognitive than traditional academic subjects. Yet, recent research and a deeper understanding of the human brain suggest otherwise. By viewing art as an epistemology, educators can tap into the transformative power of the arts to enhance learning experiences and foster deeper levels of communication. This article explores the concept of arts as education and the benefits of embracing aesthetic teaching and learning.

Aesthetic Ways of Knowing

The notion of arts as an essential aspect of the human condition is supported by the understanding that the arts are fundamental to human expression, communication, and culture. Merryl Goldberg, in her book “Arts Integration: Teaching Subject Matter through the Arts in Multicultural Settings,” emphasizes the importance of arts in education, stating that the arts are not just a means of expression but also a way of knowing. Aesthetic ways of knowing involve transformation, reflection, and a deeper understanding of knowledge. By engaging with the arts, students and teachers alike can explore content and the learning process, fostering a more holistic approach to education.

Arts Integration in Practice

To illustrate the transformative power of arts integration, let’s consider an activity called the MusicLab developed by the Lexington Philharmonic (LexPhil). One of the highlights of the MusicLab is a synthesizer that utilizes a Makey Makey, allowing students to turn conductive objects into a keyboard. This technology, inspired by composer and teaching artist Angélica Negrón, enables immediate and meaningful engagement in the creative process. The MusicLab challenges the myth that creativity requires years of advanced technical study, as participants of all ages and abilities can create music through tactile and aesthetic experiences. By embodying concepts such as conductivity and circuitry, students not only gain knowledge but also communicate and express themselves through the act of making music.

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy

The conversation surrounding the lack of arts in schools often focuses on deficiencies, particularly in terms of material resources. Public schools and non-profit arts organizations face chronic underfunding, leading to the arts being the first to be cut from curricula. However, taking an asset-based lens reveals that aesthetic means of knowing, communicating, and expressing are already present in schools, even in marginalized and under-supported environments. From the music students listen to on their earbuds to the visuals used in presentations, the arts permeate every aspect of students’ lives. By embracing culturally sustaining pedagogy, teachers can promote and strengthen these existing aesthetic means of knowing, fostering a more inclusive and diverse learning environment.

The Importance of Aesthetic Ways of Knowing

In a rapidly changing world that demands emotional literacy, critical consciousness, and cultural competence, it is crucial for educators to incorporate aesthetic ways of knowing and being in the classroom. Arts-based learning provides students with self-transcendent experiences that allow them to see their existing reality from new perspectives and imagine new possibilities. By engaging with multiple modalities, students develop skills that extend beyond traditional academic subjects, nurturing their social imagination and empowering them to navigate an increasingly complex world.


The inclusion and promotion of arts in education are essential for fostering holistic learning experiences. By embracing aesthetic ways of knowing and being, educators can tap into the transformative power of the arts to enhance students’ emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and cultural understanding. Through arts integration, students can develop a deeper appreciation for the arts, while also gaining valuable skills that extend beyond the classroom. As we strive to create a more inclusive and diverse educational landscape, it is crucial to recognize and embrace the inherent value of the arts in education.

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