VIII. APPRECIATION, AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN EDUCATION
From: How to Teach
Appreciation belongs to the general field of feeling rather than that of
knowing. The element which distinguishes appreciation from memory or
imagination or perception is an affective one. Any one of these mental
states may be present without the state being an appreciative one. But
appreciation does not occur by itself as an elementary state, it is
rather a complex--a feeling tone accompanying a mental state or process
and coloring it. n other words, appreciation involves the presence of
some intellectual states, but its addition makes the total complex of an
emotional rather than a cognitive nature. The difficulty found in
discussing emotions in general, that of defining or describing them in
language, which is a tool of the intellect, is felt here. The only way
to know what appreciation means is to appreciate. No phase of feeling
can be adequately described--its essence is then lost--it must be felt.
Nevertheless something may be done to differentiate this type of feeling
Appreciation is an attitude of mind which is passive, contemplative. t
may grow out of an active attitude or emotion, or it may lead to one,
but in either case the state changes from one of appreciation to
something else. n appreciation the individual is quiescent.
Appreciation, therefore, has no end outside of itself. t is a
sufficient cause for being. The individual is satisfied with it. This
puts appreciation into the category of recreation. Appreciation then
always involves the pleasure tone, otherwise it could not be enjoyed. t
is always impersonal. t takes the individual outside and beyond his own
affairs; it is an other-regarding feeling. Possession, achievement, and
the like do not arouse appreciation, but rather an egoistical emotion.
One of the salient characteristics of emotions is their unifying power.
t has aptly been said that in extreme emotional states one _is_ the
emotion. The individual and his emotional state become one--a very
different state of affairs from what is true in cognition. This element
of unification is present to some extent in appreciation, although,
because of its complex nature, to a lesser extent than in a simpler,
more primitive feeling state. Still, in true appreciation one does
become absorbed in the object of appreciation; he, for the time being,
to some extent becomes identified with what he is appreciating. n,
order to appreciate this submerging of one's self, this identification
Appreciation is bound up with four different types of situations which
are of most importance to the teacher--(1) appreciation of the
beautiful, (2) appreciation of human nature, (3) appreciation of the
humorous, (4) appreciation of intellectual powers. The appreciation
found in these four types of situations must vary somewhat because of
the concomitants, but the characteristics which mark appreciation as
such seem to be present in all four. True, in certain of the situations
occurring under these types the emotional element may be stronger than
in others--in some the intellectual element may seem to almost outweigh
the affective, but still the predominant characteristics will be found
to be those of an attitude which has the earmarks of appreciation.
Appreciation of beauty has usually been discussed under the head of
aesthetic emotions. As to what rightfully belongs under the head of
aesthetics is in dispute--writers on the subject varying tremendously in
their opinions. Most of the recent writers, however, agree that the
stimulus for aesthetic appreciation must be a sense percept or an image
of some sense object. deas, meanings, in and of themselves, are not
then objects of aesthetic enjoyment. The two senses which furnish the
stimuli for this sort of appreciation are the eye and the ear--the
former combining sensations under space form and the latter under time
form to produce aesthetic feelings. Our senses may cause feelings of
pleasure, but the enjoyment is sensuous rather than aesthetic. Nature,
in all its myriad forms, art, architecture, music, literature, and the
dance are the chief sources of aesthetic appreciation. That there is a
definite connection between physiological processes and the feeling of
appreciation is without doubt true, but just what physiological
conditions in connection with visual and auditory perception are
fulfilled when some experience gives rise to aesthetic appreciation, and
just what is violated when there is lack of such appreciation, is not
known. t is known that both harmony and rhythm must be considered in
music, and that the structure and muscular control of the eye plus the
ease of mental apprehension play important parts in rousing aesthetic
feelings in connection with vision, but further than that little is
The chief danger met in developing the aesthetic appreciation is the
tendency to overestimate its dependence on, in the first place, skill in
creative work and the active emotions involved in achievement, and in
the second place, the intellectual understanding of the situation. t
has been largely taken for granted that the constructive work in the
arts or in music increased one's power of appreciation. That, if a child
used color and painted a little picture, or composed a melody, or
modeled in clay, he would therefore be able to appreciate better in
these fields. And further that the very development of this power to do
necessarily developed the power to appreciate. These two beliefs are
true to some extent, but only to a limited extent, and not nearly so far
as practice has taken for granted. t is true that some power to do
increases power to appreciate, but they parallel each other only for a
short time and then diverge, and either may be developed at the expense
of the other. n most people the power to appreciate, the passive,
contemplative enjoyment, far surpasses the ability to create. On the
other hand, men of creative genius often lack power of aesthetic
appreciation. This result is natural if one thinks of the mental
processes involved in the two. Power to do is associated with muscular
skill, with technique, and with the personal emotions of active
achievement. AEsthetic appreciation, on the other hand, is associated
with neither, but with a mental attitude and feelings which are quite
different. Cultivating one set of processes will not develop the other
to any great extent and may, on the other hand, be antagonistic to their
development. f the aesthetic emotions, if appreciations of the
beautiful, are desired, they must be trained and developed directly.
The second danger to be avoided in developing aesthetic appreciation is
that of magnifying its dependence on the intellectual factors. To
understand, to be able to analyze, to pick out the flaws in a musical
selection, or a painting, is not necessary to its appreciation. True,
some understanding is necessary, but, as in the case of skill, it is
much less than has been taken for granted. Appreciation can go far ahead
of understanding. The intellectual factor and the feeling response are
not absolutely interdependent in degree. Not only so, but the prominence
of the intellectual factor precludes that of the feeling. When one is
emphasized the other cannot be, as they are different sorts of mental
stuff. Continuous and emphatic development of the intellectual may
result in the atrophy of the power of appreciation in any given field
either temporarily or permanently. Many a boy's power to enjoy the
rhythm and melody of poetry has been destroyed by the overemphasis of
the critical facility during his high school course. The fact that a
person can analyze the painting, point out the plans in its composition,
and so on, does not at all mean that he can aesthetically appreciate.
Contemplative enjoyment may be impossible for him--it bores him.
Botanists are not noted for their power of aesthetic appreciation. t is
an acknowledged fact that some art and music critics have lost their
power of appreciation of the things they are continually criticizing.
This discussion is not intended to minimize the value of creative skill,
or of power of intellectual criticism. Both are talents that are well
worth while cultivating. But it is necessary for one to decide which of
the three, aesthetic appreciation, creative skill, or intellectual
criticism, in the fields of art, nature, and music, is most worth while
for the majority of people and then make plans accordingly. No one of
the three can be best developed and brought to its highest perfection by
emphasizing any one of the others.
The second type of appreciation is appreciation of human nature:
appreciation of the value of human life, appreciation of its virtues and
trials, appreciation of great characters, and so on. Some writers would
probably class this type of appreciation under moral feelings--but moral
feelings usually are thought of as active, as accompaniments of conduct,
whereas these appreciations are feelings aroused in the onlooker--they
are passive and for the time being are an end in themselves. These
feelings are stimulated by such studies as literature and history
particularly. Geography and civics offer some opportunity for their
development, and, of course, contact with people is the greatest
stimulus. n this latter type of situation the feelings of appreciation
easily pass over into active emotions, but so long as one remains an
onlooker, they need not do so. This appreciation, sympathy with and
enjoyment and approval of human nature, finds its source in the social
instincts, but it needs development and training if it is to be
perfected. ery much of the time this appreciation is inhibited by the
emphasis put on understanding. The intellectual faculties of memory,
judgment, and criticism are the ones called into play in the study of
history and often of literature. These studies leave the learner cold.
He knows, but it does not make any difference to him. He can analyze the
period or the character, but he lacks any feeling response, any
appreciation of the qualities of endurance and loyalty portrayed, lacks
any _sympathetic_ understanding of the difficulties met and conquered.
As was true of the aesthetic appreciation, a certain amount of
understanding is necessary for true appreciation of any kind, but
overemphasis of the intellectual element destroys the feeling element.
The third type of appreciation to be discussed is the appreciation of
humor. Perhaps this does not belong with the other type, but it
certainly has many of the same characteristics. Calkins defines a sense
of humor as "enjoyment of an unessential incongruity.... This
incongruity must be, as has been said, an unessential one, else the mood
of the observer changes from happiness to unhappiness, and the comic
becomes the pathetic. A fall on the ice which seemed to offer only a
ludicrous contrast between the dignity and grace of the man erect and
the ungainly attitude of the falling figure ceases utterly to be funny
when it is seen to entail some physical injury; and wit which burns and
sears is not amusing to its victim." The ability to appreciate the
humorous in life is a great gift and should be cultivated to a much
greater extent than it is at present.
A fourth type of appreciation has been called appreciation of
intellectual powers--a poor name perhaps, but the feeling is a real one.
Enjoyment of style, of logical sequence, of the harmony of the whole, of
the clear-cut, concise, telling sentences, are illustrations of what is
meant. Enjoyment of a piece of literature, of a debate, of an argument,
of a piece of scientific research, is not limited to the appreciation of
the meanings expressed--in fact, in many cases the only factor that can
arouse the feeling element, the appreciation, is this element of form.
One may _understand_ an argument or a debate as he hears it, but
appreciation, enjoyment of it, comes only as a result of the
consciousness of these elements of form.
_That_ one possesses these feelings of appreciation, at least to some
degree, is a matter of human equipment, but _what_ one appreciates in
art, literature, human nature, etc., depends primarily on training.
There is almost no situation in life that with all people at all times
will arouse appreciative feelings. Although there are a few fundamental
conditions established by the physical make-up of the sense organs and
by the original capacities of the human race, still they are few, and at
present largely unknown, and experience does much to modify even these.
What is crude, vulgar, inharmonious, in art and music to some people,
arouses extreme aesthetic appreciation in others. Literature that causes
one person to throw the book down in disgust will give greatest
enjoyment to another. What is malice to one person is humorous to
another. What people enjoy and appreciate depends primarily on their
experience for the development of these feelings, depends upon the laws
of association, readiness, exercise, and effect. To raise power of
appreciation from low levels to high, from almost nothing to a
controlling force, needs but the application of these laws. But no one
of them can be neglected with impunity. t must be a gradual growth,
beginning with tracks that are ready, because of the presence of certain
instincts, and working on to others through the law of association. To
expect a child of seven to appreciate a steel engraving, or a piece of
classic music, or moral qualities in another person is to violate the
law of readiness. To expect any one in adult life to enjoy music, or
art, or nature, who has not had experience with each and enjoyed each
continually as a child, is to violate the laws of exercise and effect.
Two or three suggestions as to aids in the application of these laws may
be in place. First, a wealth of images is an aid to appreciation.
Second, the absence for the time of the critical attitude. Third, an
encouragement of the passive contemplative attitude. Fourth, the example
of others. Suggestion and association with other people who do
appreciate and enjoy are among the best means of securing it.
The value of feelings of appreciation are threefold: First, they serve
as recreation. t is in enjoyment of this kind that most of the leisure
of civilized races is spent. t serves on the mental level much the same
purpose that play does, in fact, much of it is mental play of a kind.
Second, they are impersonal. They are valuable in that they take us out
of ourselves, away from self-interests, and therefore make for mental
health and sanity as well as for a sympathetic character. They are also
a means of broadening one's experience. Third, they have a close
relationship with ideals and therefore have an active bearing on
conduct. t is not necessarily true that one will tend in himself or in
his surroundings to be like what he enjoys and appreciates, but the
tendency will be strongly in that direction. f an individual truly
appreciates, enjoys, beautiful pictures, good music and books, he will
be likely, so far as he can, to surround himself with them. f he
appreciates loyalty, openmindedness, tolerance, as he meets them in
literature and history, he may become more so himself. At least, the
developing of appreciations is the first step towards conduct in those
lines. n order to insure the conduct, other means must be taken, but
without the appreciation the conduct will be less sure.
One who would count most in developing power of appreciation upon the
part of children may well inquire concerning his own power of
appreciation. There is not very much possibility of the development of
joy in poetry, in music, or any other artistic form of expression
through association with the teacher who finds little satisfaction in
these artistic forms, who has little power of aesthetic appreciation. t
is only as teachers themselves are sincere in their appreciation of the
nobility of character possessed by the men and women whose lives are
portrayed in history, in literature, or in contemporary social life that
one may expect that their influence will be important in developing such
appreciation upon the part of children. Those pupils are fortunate who
are taught by teachers who have a sense of humor, who are able to grow
enthusiastic over the intellectual achievement of the leaders in the
field of study or investigation in which the children are at work.
Children are, indeed, quick to discover sentimentalism or
pseudo-appreciation upon the part of teachers, but even though they may
not give any certain expression to their enjoyment, they are usually
largely influenced by the attitude and genuine power of appreciation
possessed by the teacher.
n our attempt to have children grow in the field of appreciation we
have often made the mistake of attempting to impose upon them adult
standards. A great librarian in one of our eastern cities has said that
he would rather have children read dime novels than to have them read
nothing. From his point of view it was more important to have children
appreciating and enjoying something which they read than to have their
lives barren in this respect. n literature, in music, and in fine art
the development in power of appreciation is undoubtedly from the simple,
cruder forms to those which we as adults consider the higher or nobler
forms of expression. Mother Goose, the rhymes of Stevenson, of Field, or
of Riley, may be the beginning of the enjoyment of literature which
finds its final expression in the reading and in the possession of the
greatest literature of the English language. The simple rote songs which
the children learn in the first grade, or which they hear on the
phonograph, may lead through various stages of development to the
enjoyment of grand opera. Pictures in which bright color predominates
may be the beginning of power of appreciation which finds its fruition
in a home which is decorated with reproductions of the world's
t is not only in the artistic field that this growth in power of
appreciation from the simpler to the more complex is to be found.
Children instinctively admire the man who is brave rather than the man
who endures. Achievement is for most boys and girls of greater
significance than self-sacrifice. t is only as we adapt our material to
their present attainment, or to an attempt to have them reach the next
higher stage of development, that we may expect genuine growth. All too
often instead of growth we secure the development of a hypocritical
attitude, which accepts the judgment of others, and which never really
indicates genuine enjoyment.
While it is best not to insist upon an analysis of the feelings that one
has in enjoying a picture or a poem or a great character, it is worth
while to encourage choice. Of many stories which have been told,
children may very properly choose one which they would like to tell to
others. Of many poems which have been read in class, a group of boys may
admire one and commit it to memory, while the girls may care for another
and be allowed to memorize it. Wherever such cooeperation is possible,
the picture which you enjoy most is the one that will mean most in power
of appreciation if placed in your room at home. Spontaneous approval,
rather than an agreement with an adult teacher who is considered an
authority, is to be sought for. There is more in the spontaneous
laughter which results as children read together their "Alice in
Wonderland" than could possibly result from an analysis of the quality
of humor which is involved.
We are coming to understand as a matter of education that we may hope to
develop relatively few men and women of great creative genius. The
producers of work of great artistic worth are, for the most part, to be
determined by native capacity rather than by school exercises. We must
think of the great majority of school children as possible consumers
rather than as producers. Schools which furnish a maximum of opportunity
to enjoy music and pictures may hope to develop in their community a
power of discrimination in these fields which will result in
satisfaction with nothing less than the best. The player-piano and the
phonograph may mean more in the development of musical taste in a
community than all of the lessons which are given in the reading of
music. The art gallery in the high school, the folk dances which have
been produced as a part of the school festivals, the reading of the best
stories, may prepare the way for the utilization of leisure time in the
pursuit of the nobler pleasures. The teacher with a saving sense of
humor, large in his power of appreciation of the great men and women of
his time, and all of the time keen in his own enjoyment and in his
ability to interpret for others those things which are most worth while
in literature and in art, may count more largely in the life of the
community than the one who is a master in some field of investigation.
1. What are the characteristics of the mental states which are involved
2. Name the different types of situations in which appreciation may be
developed. Give examples.
3. Does the power to criticize poetry or music necessarily involve
4. To what degree may skill in creative work result in power of
5. What are the elements involved in appreciating human nature?
6. Give an example of appreciation of intellectual powers.
7. What is the essential element in the appreciation of humor?
8. Explain how the power of appreciation is dependent upon training.
9. What values in the education of an individual are realized through
growth in power of appreciation?
10. Why is it important for a teacher to seek to cultivate his own power
11. What poems, or pictures, or music would you expect first-grade
children to enjoy? Why?
12. Would you expect fifth-grade children to grow in appreciation of
poetry by having them commit to memory selections from Milton's Paradise
13. Why is it important to allow children to choose the poems that they
commit to memory, or the pictures which they hang on their walls?
14. Why would you accept spontaneous expression of approval of the
characters in literature or in history, rather than seek to control the
judgments of children in this respect?
15. How may teachers prove most effective in developing the power of
appreciation upon the part of children?
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