Beauty is truth, truth beauty, is this all we need to know?

There is an afternoon which has remained impressed in my mind. I was a young and quite unexperienced teacher and the following day I was to start to work at a school where the majority of the students came from disadvantaged areas often with difficult situations. That afternoon I was suggested to attend a parent / teacher conference which was scheduled for some issues concerning discipline, so that I could have been promptly informed about that class situation, before meeting the boys, well, rather than boys, it would have been more correct to say men, as the average age of  that class, the equivalent of a twelfth grade, was 18/19.

As I was sitting in a corner of that classroom, listening to a list of some of the most bewildering life school episodes I had ever heard and wondering whether I would have ever been able to elaborate the weapons to face such a reality, my attention was captured by the innumerable drawings I could see on the walls. Those students seemed to have developed the most extraordinary talent for sketching human body, male sex organs in particular. There were at least one hundred of them, of course, of different colors, sizes and even styles, I dare say. There was one in particular, a huge one, I guess the father of them all, which stretched along the entire class, wall after wall, and majestically ended right on the class register. As I closely inspected the classroom, I could see only dirt and degradation. Many of the desks were half-broken and the blackboard chipped, but nobody seemed to notice it. They were blind and perfectly at ease, but I was not. Those drawings were the unheard voices of those students’ contempt.

Then I couldn’t help but wonder: would they have been equally destructive if their school had been more clean, organized, modern and why not, beautiful? Would they have dared take their markers and besmirch the walls again or not? Maybe they wouldn’t, if they had been taught to love and respect beauty and of course, placed in a more decent context. If beauty were a subject taught in school, we would form generations of adolescents who not only would appreciate the esthetic value of things but also their hidden ethical message. Yes, ethical, because once you have understood the importance beauty and make it a value of your life, it would be intolerable, for example, to see the dirt and the holes in the streets of your town or the beautiful coasts of your country disfigured by urbanization abuses. Your sense of beauty would not allow you to be indifferent and you would instinctively do something against all this.

Peppino Impastato, a young man and journalist from Sicily, was murdered at the age of thirty after having spent his short life to fight the mafia. He had tried to awake the consciences of the people he knew in order they could find the strength to get rid of their cowardice and that conspiracy of silence which lies in the roots of their culture. But it was in vain. Peppino understood how the love and respect of beauty would have been essential in his cultural context, that is why he wrote once :”if people were taught beauty, they would be given a weapon against resignation, fear and conspiracy of silence“.  A new “conspiracy of beauty” should come to life, hence, nobody would be left alone to fight the wrongs of any society.

The following day I met the boys of that class. They were only twelve, but when they were all in, I can tell you, they seemed a crowd to me.

83 thoughts on “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, is this all we need to know?

  1. Personally I think that respect for what is around you should be taught by your family, but obviously in particular cases it can be taught at school, as well as the concept of beauty, because it is an essential part of our life.

  2. I believe that many times the attitudes especially of younger kids are influenced by their surroundings. As for the kids in that school surely if they studied in a more comfortable and clean place they would have less desire to dirty or ruin the school further. I believe that degradation only leads to more degradation. In my opinion we should pay more attention to the boys’ inner beauty and values, while in modern society we always think about who is cooler and not who is worth more inside. Especially the abandoned school situations create great discomfort to those who work inside the school.

    • Often we can’t see the beauty of things or more precisely we don’t know it. I agree with all that, which is written above. Working all together could fight any wrongs in society, respect is something fundamental that not every body have or understand.

  3. In today’s world, man is almost thirsty for beauty. Beauty has become the main source of income. But this beauty is a fake, apparent beauty. True Beauty is another, it is certainly not a source of income, or an aesthetic beauty. True beauty is cultivated within us. The school is the first in which beauty could be cultivated, unfortunately it is not so, something more should be done.

  4. I believe that respect for beauty is taught to you as a child by the family, by the environment in which you live and by the school. It is important that young people are taught to respect the environment and others people, above all by setting a good example both in the family and at school. Certainly, if the environment in which you live is clean and tidy, even people are more inclined to respect it, but this does not mean that if a place is dirty and degraded we are allowed to dirty it even more.
    I believe that the most important thing is the respect and the ability to adapt in all places. For example, if a teacher goes to a run-down school it is important that he adapts to the place and circumstances.

  5. I agree because those boys were born in “abandoned” places are used to living in these situations. If more aid arrives from the state, I am convinced that over time they will no longer ruin the places where they live.

  6. beauty is part of our life every day. Everything can be beautiful, you just have to find the right way to look at it. I personally travel a lot with my imagination and I’m always looking for something beautiful that catches my attention. In a class like the one she was in, however, I would have died. A lot of guys who think it’s cool sketching human body, male sex organs in particular, on the wall. They don’t know it’s just disrespect and an insult to all the art and beauty of this world. I am very attached to art and knowing that these things happen destroys me, certainly beauty and art and in every person, but we must also know how to respect art itself and other people.

  7. I think that beauty is a value that we should be taught from an early age, because it is important to appreciate the essence of things. It is difficult to explain what beauty is exactly, but if those kids had been explained they would have enjoyed their school and would not have damaged it. If this value were applied in daily life, maybe even the neighborhoods where we live would be better managed and more respected.

  8. I think it would be great if at school they start to teach us and dwell on the ethical part that stands behind many things or actions

  9. I think that beauty needs to be taught at school. Beauty is an important value in everyone of us and we always search for it. School is very important for our formation and a place to learn but it should also teach us the ethical part of things and the way to behave.

  10. Once, one of the best poets ever known wrote: “Beauty awakens the souls to act”, his name was Dante Alighieri and this quote will never disappear as its validity. The knowledge of beauty is the weapon we can use against the decline of our society. This reality has been accepted since the most remote times, even Socrate affirmed that, if we knew what is good, it would be impossible to do bad things. The only explanation is that we don’t know what is beauty, or maybe we are not able to recognize it, if we knew it, things would be different.

  11. I have to be honest, so far I’ve probably underestimated the value of beauty, but I don’t think I feel guilty. No one has ever done to me as much as the beauty of the contexts in which we find ourselves can also influence our behaviour. Unfortunately, I’ve been to places where people probably don’t know what beauty is and that leads to underestimating many things.

  12. I agree with the above. I think staying in a cleaner and tidier place can change pupils’ behavior. Being a girl who gets distracted very easily, surely being in a neater and cleaner place would help me stay more focused.

  13. Beauty is what the human being must aspire to. It is a value that should be taught both in families and in schools. It is important to learn to protect what is beautiful because a clean and good looking environment has positive effects on us too.

  14. With respect comes beauty.
    We must have respect for what is and isn’t ours.
    And we must have respect for our school, a common ground where thousands of kids spend their time in, and it must be a welcoming space,so that they can understand, starting from their school, that living in a clean and peaceful world is better and healthier for everybody.

  15. Honestly I do not know if it is feasible to teach at school beauty and the ethics of things but certainly if they do it would be very nice and interesting.

  16. I believe that the appreciation of beauty is something that should be taught to people from a young age. Seeing something that we consider “beautiful” creates very strong emotions in us that we would hardly forget, so I believe teachers need to make sure their students learn what is the true value of beaty.

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