Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bear with me as I attempt to explain

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time will know that in a tapestry woven woof on warp the same threads are revealed again and again. It is the same with this blog as I try to move through and expand an important concept. But I hope this post reveals more of the finished cloth.

I was reading William Heard Kilpatrick's critique of Froebel, which can be found on Google Books if you are interested in reading along, and wondering why it would be that Kilpatrick, a very strong advocate for Progressive education, would have so little understanding of Froebel's gifts and occupations.

I believe some of the answer can be found in my simple chart on the development of knowledge found above.

You can know and know nothing to do with your knowledge, and there are things you know and do which cannot be adequately explained on an academic level and yet that in no way denies the usefulness or truth of those things. The failure of Kilpatrick to grasp Froebel's concepts came from his own immersion in explanation rather than action. Academic understanding is only one step in the integration and utilization of knowledge. It would take a craftsman, a cook or a gardener or a musician to explain the difference.

The most profound concepts are often hardest to explain and the profound character of Froebel's gifts would be very difficult for those unused to creative manipulation of real materials to understand. It is also most difficult to explain those thoughts and things that are at the cutting edge of development, as were most of Froebel's educational ideas, which were too easily denigrated by those having no actual experience in their use. And many things are better illustrated than explained with words. That's where things like this simple chart come into play.


  1. Great post, thank you.

    I was talking to a friend who is a teacher here in the UK, whose school is trying very hard to teach their children how to ask questions. The children have in many cases no opportunity to think or discuss, having just been informed or dictated to.

    She was humbled by the experience of what five year olds can ask you, if you give them the chance to come up with their own questions.

  2. The book recommendation on Pestalozzi will be helpful to your teacher. Pay attention to pages 198-203. We push our children into abstraction when they will arrive there on their own and in their proper time.

    Teachers have to draw their children into greater confidence in expressing themselves. You can't teach children to ask questions. they have plenty that spill out whenever they are comfortable. So the challenge is creating a comfortable situation in which they can speak freely. And it is often not the teacher that poses the obstruction, but their peers. So that means you have to develop a classroom of respect for one another, in which all points of view are respected and listened to.

    So effective education requires training in social justice and democracy.

    The real challenge is that all this can take years. When the children of today grow up so quickly and deserve the very best.

  3. really helpful comment, thanks.

    Having read it and thought it over came across this summary which I found interesting:

    'Craft (1984) noted that there are two different Latin roots of the English word "education." They are educare, which means to train or to mold, and educere, meaning to lead out. While the two meanings are quite different, they are both represented in our word "education." Thus, there is an etymological basis for many of the vociferous debates about education today. The opposing sides often use the same word to denote two very different concepts. One side uses education to mean the preservation and passing down of knowledge and the shaping of youths in the image of their parents. The other side sees education as preparing a new generation for the changes that are to come-readying them to create solutions to problems yet unknown. One calls for rote memorization and becoming good workers. The other requires questioning, thinking, and creating.'

    your challenge - worth taking up!

  4. A study they conducted in New Zealand suggested that 80% of the occupations available to adults did not exist at the time of their birth. So, it is counter-productive and even destructive to educate to prepare children for the past.

    And the future is something we have a responsibility to help them to create for themselves. It is something we can't imagine for them.

  5. hmm... agree with that NZ study in that when I was born in 1967 I'm pretty sure that there weren't too many female chartered accountants specialising in corporate finance in the Lloyd's of London insurance market, which was what I was doing when I was in my late twenties. I will watch with anticipation what my children get up to in 2025 -30!

    However I am also in the interesting position of returning to the family farm, running a new business, and wanting my children to share in that while being able to choose their own paths later on. I want them to have the chance to be very much hands on, in the same way their grandfather is and my grandfather was. We are returning to our roots, which has a weight and a joy beyond measurement.
    Being able to re-sharpen a millstone is a life skill not many children have the opportunity to acquire - we are very much blessed.

    LOve the phrase 'chaos lift' in your last post - will try to remember that that is what I am giving them, when they come in covered in mud from their latest fossil hunting expedition!

    I am always intrigued by the emphasis in your posts upon balancing innovation and age old skills.