A new understanding of the human self
Arnold-Perey_Gwe_Book-coverImagine what would happen if every person in our country felt: “Life in my dear home town is inseparable from the everyday life of people in other places, and those people matter to me. Knowing them is a means of knowing my nearest neighbors and myself more truly.”
      This way of seeing was celebrated in an exciting theatrical event that took place in New York City on June 10: a dramatic reading, with music and slides, of Gwe: A Novel against Racism, by anthropologist Arnold Perey. The flyer stated: “You’ll take a trip to the heart of Papua New Guinea, to the mountains, peaceful and turbulent, where Gwe lives. You’ll experience, as close to you as your fingertips, an ancient culture, real people, and real events. . . . “We invite you to a new understanding of the human self as you meet Gwe, his relations, his enemies, and Alan, the anthropologist who lived with them.”
      This is what I wanted for my own life in 1973, when I went to the Dominican Republic to do anthropological
fieldwork. I lived in a small farming village among people of African-American and Haitian descent in a Spanish-speaking country. Their lives gripped me and move me to this day. But after I came home, I could not relate the distant and the near, and despaired of ever really understanding the people I had known One day in 1980, this began to change in a beautiful way, as I heard the purpose that had impelled me described at an Aesthetic Realism program -- “to like the world through knowing it.” I began take the Anthropology class that Dr. Perey teaches. Arnold Perey, a Columbia Ph.D., did his fieldwork in New Guinea and worked on his dissertation under Margaret Mead. But as he says himself, his work only came to life when he began to study Aesthetic Realism with its founder, Eli Siegel, and began to look at the people he had known using the principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” Dr. Perey writes now: “Thanks to this education, I began to understand the people of New Guinea more exactly by far than when I was living amongst them. I began to realize how alive the people were, how their flesh, like mine, contains a heart that can beat slower or faster with emotion; that I had the same feelings they did.” Arnold Perey has told of this in his important novel, basing the character of “Gwe” on the young person who acted as his faithful translator and field assistant. For information about this event, class registration, or requesting a presentation in your community, go to the website at www.aestheticrealism.org, or call the Aesthetic Realism Foundation at 212-777-4490.
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The Objection to Common Core Testing
In your Letters column of April 2, two Sayville parents have expressed their objection to the Common Core testing in our public schools. They describe its devastating effect on children and their teachers, writing with logic and a passion that I respect very much.
      Near where I reside in Brooklyn, standardized testing is being used to close schools in poor neighborhoods. These “failing schools” are being replaced with charter schools that will make a profit for their investors while drawing on public funds, further weakening public education. While the situation in Sayville, where I grew up, is not yet that dire, it is being argued in both communities that the needs of children are being sacrificed to the selfishness of teachers. Actually, teacher demands for decent pay,  proper classroom sizes, adequate supplies and job security are the kind of benefits every working person is looking for. In a manner that is completely shameful, New York State teacher evaluations are being tied to test scores.

     Ellen Reiss, chairman of education at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City, writes: “We should be clear: the purpose of education is completely opposed to the purpose of profit economics. The purpose of all education, Aesthetic Realism explains, is to like the world through knowing it. That is the purpose of learning how to spell a word; how to find Africa on a map; how to solve an algebraic equation. The profit motive—the purpose behind profit economics—is not to know, but to grab and own. . .This way of seeing people and reality is a form of sheer contempt. And Aesthetic Realism identifies contempt as the most hurtful thing in us; it’s the ‘addition to self through the lessening of something else.’” (The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known No. 1857)
     There is a powerful teaching method based on Aesthetic Realism that shows children that every subject is related to their very selves.  Teachers who use it are succeeding, even under the current testing mandate. For more information, go to www.aestheticrealism.org or call 212-777-4490.
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