Thursday, April 01, 2010

In theory...

Yogi Berra said, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." Thus was clearly defined by a great American baseball catcher the difference between common academic studies and what happens when craftsmen engage in shaping real materials into beautiful and useful objects.

I have begun reading Diane Ravitch's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, in which she takes on the disastrous No Child Left Behind legislation which she had supported prior to the discovery that people can really screw things up bad. The noble notion of accountability and standards went deeply off kilter when implemented by the last administration, and teaching to the test became the standard method of operation in American Schooling.

You see, there is something you can learn from craftsmanship, outside what has come to suffice as conventional education. It is the need to have in place the preparedness for plan b, with that backed securely by plans c, d, e and f.

Educational Sloyd, originally based on Froebel's methods of teaching, placed crafts at the exact center of learning. At this point in the process, Froebel's no doubt rolled over in his grave as play has been eliminated from many kindergarten, and we have created generations of highly educated individuals who are completely out of touch.

But when there are those who for some reason, truly care about outcomes, as it is clear Diane Ravitch truly does, there is yet reason for hope. She states, with regard to accountability,
"Surely we have more in mind than just bare literacy and numeracy. And when we use the results of tests, with their limitations, as a routine means to fire educators, hand out bonuses, and close schools, then we distort the purpose of schooling altogether."
There is a relatively easy solution. Howard Gardner proposed that humans have a number of operational forms of intelligence, unevenly dispersed, most of which are overlooked in conventional schooling and which due to the filtering effect of higher education, are completely unavailable to most university graduates in education. Every form of intelligence is utilized when children are engaged in crafts... kinesthetic, haptic, musical, number, environmental, go down the long list.

I am sad that we have let education drift so far into theory, and so far from practice. We have a lot to learn, and practice through the use of crafts is the key to getting things right. Don't hold your breath just waiting for things to pop. Make stuff, and teach others to make beautiful and useful stuff. We can whittle the academic and administrative idiots off one at a time, revealing to each their own creative capacity and the true power of schooling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good for Yogi Berra! He got it.

Mario