Thursday, September 20, 2007

This morning, I would like to explore the reasons the hands are left out of the learning environment.
1. We are largely unconscious of our hands as they perform their function in seamless integration with the brain... seamless at least as long as they aren't challenged by learning something new. The acquisition of skill, at nearly anything (except test-taking) is hard to measure and not considered important. For all practical purposes in modern education as in business, if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist; nor does it deserve our conscious attention.
2. Most teachers, due to their passage through university systems have been heavily screened by the rigors of testing to eliminate all but two basic learning styles. It is challenging for teachers to teach outside their innate learning styles, and to ask them to do so offers poor to mixed results.
3. Those students who learn primarily by listening or reading can be taught very cheaply and effectively through lectures and textbooks, cheaply delivered to large numbers of students at a time. Unfortunately there are seven or eight learning styles and we would prefer to leave most children behind rather than spend resources engaging them in effective education. In the meantime, quick learning through lectures and books, even for those students that fall within that learning style is no guarantee of long term retention.
4. Delivery of hands-on experience in learning is more costly, as it often involves smaller groups of students, more intensive engagement with teachers, and greater prep time.
5. Testing measures short-term retention of educational material. Long term retention and the potential of eventual use of learned materials is more difficult to measure, and is therefore not considered as a goal in a test driven educational environment.

In essence, we leave the hands out because to include them costs money. We cheapen the educational experience of our children because we care more about the expense than about the long term consequences in their lives and their impact on society.

There is a second factor. Huge numbers of college graduates in the United States and throughout the world, rest on the laurels symbolized by their degrees and diplomas, while laying claim to the heightened respect of others, and feeling personal assurance of advanced intelligence and their rights to higher pay, greater security and personal influence. To propose that there is wisdom of the hands, applicable directly to the course of culture and society, is a revolutionary concept (at least in these times). My point isn't to disparage the significance of the hard work these graduates have applied toward our unfolding human culture, but to take the liberty of suggesting that they are not alone. Try going for a day without a working toilet and check the status or your civilization. Forgive me for rocking the boat, but look around. You will see the seas rising over the gunnels, as we are called to accept change.

We get the society and culture we are willing to pay for and give to. But we can change things. Please take what you read here to heart. Test these principles in your own hands. If you find meaning in these words, make something. Learn--practice--grow. Your making will get better. You will set an example that children will notice. Take them by the hand and help them to begin something wonderful.


Anonymous said...

"In essence, we leave the hands out because to include them costs money."


You nailed it. The only caveat, working at a community college, is that education of the "vocational" students sometimes gets short shrift on the other end. They're not given enough opportunity to build their intellects as they learn their trade.


Doug Stowe said...


If ALL work was granted the dignity it deserves, vocational students would better understand and have confidence in the value of their intellects. That would be a dangerous thing for the ruling elite. Their manipulation of society through the distortions of the media would become revealed in the eyes of an intellectually open and confident citizenry.

A little dignity added to a sense of confidence can be very dangerous. The hidden objective of education is to create a mass society of complaisant consumers. And it's working.