The following is from an old college friend George Lundeen, a sculptor whose work was shown here a couple days ago and which you will find below:
The schools have dropped the ball when it comes to teaching. I think your ideas about working with your hands and creating something has a much deeper and life lasting effect on anyone who ever has that chance. This past year, my son was taking an Art History class and was totally bored and frustrated that he had to sit and watch slides and listen to a teacher who simply read from the text or remembered what her teacher had read from the text. In a meeting I had with her I told her of a couple teachers who I thought were the best Art teachers and how they had brought the art to the students by having the students make art and incorporate the creativity into the history. Sadly she said she had her way of teaching and had not had a problem with the administration about her performance. A hands on approach would, I think work wonders with many disciplines in the educational field. After all isn't that what we all do, when we leave academia, join the unwashed and have to learn how to finally do something in order to survive? How fortunate are we to have found something to keep our minds and hands busy for so long and been able to feed our families and thrive.George, very well put. And yes, you and I are very lucky. A friend of mine here in Arkansas just retired as an art history teacher and he had confided in me that in all his thirty-five years of teaching he never had a potter get higher than a B. We do pottery (or woodworking) because we don't want to sit in dark rooms and hear lectures. He was a good teacher and is a great friend, but it was way too much work for the amount of time available for him to bring clay into the classroom. Besides, the purpose of art history isn't to make people qualified as artists, but to give a sense of mastery through the left brain activities of classifying and categorizing the arts to those who haven't a chance in hell of doing any of it. That way people who really don't have a clue about visual and tactile creativity can feel superior to those whose lives are driven by it.
I think it's time to build a pottery shop in the barn and get back to teaching a few kids including my own how much fun it is and how simple it is to make something useful from the earth....the most useful thing being the doing itself!
In the same vein, Joe Barry sent the following:
In my day job as therapist I often run into academics and their skewed world view. The feedback that they have been getting for years from students and preceptors after internships is the need for more practical (ie: hands on) training. The curriculum is full of courses on research and has minimal practical work because "you'll learn that when you do your internship". They now want to follow the Physical Therapists down the rabbit hole and require a doctorate as an entry level requirement. That's just what we need - another year of coursework on doing research and no contact with real patients and the real business of treating people. (Plus, salaries are not rising with the increased debt load of a 5-6 year college education. New grads will not make enough money to pay their loans off)
A book for you: The Reflective Practitioner by Donald Schon. He examines how people improve in practice by reflecting on their experience and changing what they are doing in order to do it better. (Hmmm, belt sander and 40 grit belt not a good idea!)