International Journal of Art & Design Education

Ideology and Aesthetic Education

Volume 2.1   1983



The author argues that the problems with the concept of ideology - i.e. its vagueness which arises largely from meanings which can be discerned in both the pejorative and non-pejorative senses of the word - are multiplied when the concept is explored in juxtaposition with the equally vague concept of art. The Marxist writers, Ernst Fischer and Herbert Marcuse, Albert William Levi, and Lionel Trilling are cited to provide examples of the difficulties with the conjunction of art and ideology. This confusion, the author argues, is further compounded when education is added to the formula. The paper then considers three views on aesthetic education: David Gordon's pessimistic view that aesthetic education is defeated by ideology; David Swanger's non-pejorative matter-of-fact view of ideology, and of aesthetic education as one which alerts pupils to the values of freshness, creativity and innovation so that they will be valued in other areas of human experience; and Diederik Schönau, who asks whether aesthetic education implies an ideology within education. These writers represent three possible relations of ideology and aesthetic education: aesthetic education defeated by ideology, aesthetic education opposed to ideology and aesthetic education simply as an ideology - a set of beliefs. The paper concludes with a fourth view, proposed by the author, which attempts to reconcile elements from the three perspectives described. The primary function of art may not be the imparting of knowledge - that knowledge is presupposed in the having of rewarding aesthetic experiences.