Thursday, March 15, 2007

There were a couple very important things I learned about myself in College. One was that I love learning, but have little interest in being taught in a formalized, artificial structure. The second was the necessity for me of working with my hands. I was so depressed by the experience of school that I nearly dropped out. I was smart enough for it, but there was little in it that engaged my interest or enthusiasm, until I decided to take a pottery class. It was that class, the threat of the draft, and the fear of disappointing my parents that kept me in school my senior year and through to graduation.

I was reminded of my own experience the other day when I was listening to part of a series on National Public Radio about college education. They interviewed a young man who told of his mother's expectations that he become a doctor because his uncles were engineers and other professionals. The young man said, "But I want to work on cars."

Otto Salomon, in The Theory of Educational Sloyd, 1907, quotes M. Jules Ferry, in opening a School for Manual Training in France in 1883:

"In order that the nobility of hand-work may be acknowledged, not only by those who engage in it, but by the whole community, we have chosen the surest and the only practical means: we have introduced it into the school. Do you not think that when the plane and file have taken a place of honour by the side of maps and histories, and handwork is taught in a rational and systematic manner, that many old prejudices will die out, and the traditional division into castes will disappear?"

A mother who wants the best for her child is not at fault in having aspirations regarding his or her education, but a society is deeply at fault for limiting the allocation of dignity, respect, and economic resources based on an academic divide. And schools are deeply at fault for failing to provide for the education of the hands and heart.

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