Monday, April 14, 2008

I am glad to be home in Eureka Springs after a weekend of talking hands with craft school, craft center, and museum directors. Today I introduce Faith Clover, Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota to Clear Spring School and the Wisdom of the Hands. She will be visiting until Wednesday afternoon.

There is a great deal to learn from David Pye, craft philosopher. He talked about workmanship of risk vs. workmanship of certainty. The idea is that machines and specialized jigs can create certainty in the making of objects and displace the need for skill and constant attention. In workmanship of risk, a minor lapse of attention can be conveyed to the object being made, damaging it, making it less fit for use and even lead to its destruction. Most craftsmen know this well, but find pleasure and self-actualization in the attention required to create beautiful and lasting work. The satisfaction of success is made deep by the investment of attention and care.

The same David Pye philosophy can be applied to other things. The avoidance of risk is why we buy insurance, or why we might buy a new car and trade in our old jalopies. It can explain why some might ride a surfboard or others a bus or cab.

I want to introduce you to the concept of "teaching of risk." When we empower teachers to take chances, experiment and grow, stepping into new territories, taking personal risks in the classroom, what are the results?

When we try to take control of classrooms, eliminating risk through the superimposition of externally derived curriculum, we make the effort to standardize the information delivered and the means of delivery. We see school board, administrators and politicians engaged in constant struggle to distance control classroom behavior to the point that teachers are emasculated, marginalized and stripped of their opportunities for the expressions of creativity and care. In the politically driven effort to standardize and eliminate risk is the greatest risk of all. We can see it in the horrific statistics of American education. In urban Minneapolis, for example, the dropout rate is 50%.

Faith Clover told me last night that most art teachers at the masters degree level are driven from teaching within the first three years. This is what happens when the micromanagement of government in its effort to control and eliminate risk, removes the teacher's opportunity for risk and creativity.

I look forward to my 3 days with Faith, sharing my library of Sloyd books, sharing with her the glories of Clear Spring School and showing first hand the wonders of children working with wood.

1 comment:

  1. That is an interesting topic Doug. I have seen the elimination of risk in business also. Particularly when employees are not empowered to take risk in order to break through to new ground. Employees become lifeless robotic task doers instead of thinking problem solvers. Success as an employee is reduced to understanding what tasks to do and individuals perform at the lowest level of expectation in return for the level of success they wish to achieve.