Friday, August 08, 2008

For those who are curious, there will always be more questions than answers, and for those who make things, there will always be better ways, yet to be imagined. There will always be improvements to be made on what has been made before. For those who are in the midst of change the driving force is usually the quest for a better way, and yet, not every effort is met with success, and every effort brings one face to face with unintended consequences.

My own curiosity at the moment has to do with simple things. In Swedish, the question has to do with Vänster and Höger, left and right, the two sides of things, in mirror opposition, reflecting the interior dimensions of our own human consciousness.

I am particularly interested in elementary education because my mother is a retired kindergarten teacher and it was a topic of family interest throughout my middle school, high school and college years. There were tools that she used in assessing reading readiness having to do with the integration of the two halves of the brain. One was skipping. Another was the ability to tie one's shoes. Both present evidence of the integration of hemispheres. Now children are being pushed toward reading and math at ever earlier ages regardless of evidence indicating lack of readiness for learning success.

It is interesting that when new things are introduced so much of the old is completely discarded as being no longer relevant. A great deal can be learned about human intelligence, perception and comprehension by observing our relationship with vänster and höger. For example look at the algebraic formula, its balance left and right. Or the "flipping story stick" technique I use in box making to provide a frame of reference for machining matching hinge mortises on the left and right sides of a box. The ability to integrate one's perceptive framework, left and right, is essential to the success of a child's efforts in a number of academic areas. This ability was traditionally reinforced by such kinds of activities as braiding and tying shoes. And the ability called "spatial sense" is directly related to abilities in science, math and art.

Now we enter the age of the mouse and the 2-D monitor and we think we are in heaven and have precipitously abandoned the traditional learning activities. But it is extremely important to be engaged in full dimensional reality, and this means both left and right. We have no way of measuring or understanding the unintended consequences of failing to engage our children in learning from physical reality.

My apologies about seeming to ramble today as I collect my thoughts for a presentation in Helsinki, about tools and the development of intelligence. It is interesting that left and right, vänster and höger, were very much in the thoughts of Otto Salomon as he contemplated the human body and bringing his students to an intellectual awakening. If you are lucky enough to have a copy of Salomon's Theory of Educational Sloyd you will find on p. 54 the observation: "It is important that both sides of the body be harmoniously developed." Early educators like Salomon were much more aware of the interrelationship between mind and body, a concept based on intense observation and that is being reawakened in the new field of scientific study (and curiosity) "embodied consciousness."

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