Saturday, September 27, 2008

My visit here in Helsinki has been very good for helping me gain an overview of the state of Sloyd in Scandinavia. In the mind everything can be oversimplified, but on the ground, and following over 100 years practice in a variety of nations from the date of Sloyd's invention by Cygnaeus and Salomon, things have gotten complicated. The situation in Finland is complicated enough. Here part of the country in recognition of its Swedish language and heritage practices Sloyd, while the rest of the country, being primarily of Finnish heritage and language prefers the term käsityön to describe crafts. In addition, there is a distinction made between textile crafts which are taken primarily by young women and are considered to have a strong design component and artistic value, and wood and metal crafts which are taken primarily by boys and are considered to have technical value.

So, what I seem to have discovered is not to look to the country of Sloyd's origins for the best explanation of its value despite Finland's leadership position in the PISA studies.

The other thing that I have discovered here is that those who have lived and worked in school systems that have government sponsored compulsory sloyd are not as concerned as I am about describing the basic rationale for crafts in schools. So while me may agree with each other on the importance of engaging the hands, there is some reticence to agree that crafts should be a tool specifically used for that purpose throughout school curriculum. Like most teachers, craft teachers regard what they teach as being very important, not as an integrative element enhancing other learning, but as a stand-alone, "this is my territory" kind of attitude.

This being my second conference, provided clearer insight than the last, but it should be noted that these observations are my own and if they offend anyone for some reason, please let me know. I still have a lot to learn, of course.

Today, I walked around with friends, visited the fresh market on the waterfront, checked on ferry tickets for tomorrow, visited churches and shopped for souvenirs in Finnish Design shops. As are some in the US, Finns are thinking about products that last.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:40 AM

    What a great opportunity for you, even if the trip ended up being more complicated than you thought it would be.
    If I can offer a small ray of hope, my school offers "linked" classes, biology with study skills, for instance. But the idea of teaching crafts in anything but adult ed has apparently died out.