Wednesday, September 22, 2010

National security tied to "made in USA"

Makes you wonder... what were they thinking? Between the balance of payment deficit, which is like having an open wound through which our children's future is bled, and the loss of American jobs and creative intelligence in the workforce, how in the world did they think it was OK to lose our manufacturing sector? And now they suddenly notice what they've done! We know better than to expect anyone to accept responsibility for it.

Those who actually make things have been pointing this out for years, and actually doing something about it.

Today at in the Clear Spring School wood shop, the first, second, and third grade students finished their trains with the second and third grade students shown in the photo above.

Watching as a parent you notice when children are engaged in doing real things beyond classroom memorization and worksheets. Even if your child is shy and inexpressive in words, the objects he or she has made invite conversation. By observing the things a child brings home from the wood shop, a mother might see the growth of her child moving from the easy to the more difficult, the known to the unknown, and the simple to the complex. She might even see things like growth in confidence and creative imagination. She might notice these things and giver her child praise, thus reinforcing the partnership between home and school.

Second grader Oakley told his mother that he wants to build a desk. He says he knows how to do it. He just needs some materials. His confidence is impressive. In the wood shop he applies himself with diligence. Two of the things that a parent witnesses in a child are growth of ambition and growth of confidence. Can you see how craftsmanship and the arts might provide an easy and direct means of assessment to revitalize our nation's schools? I will, in my spare time, set things into a "Beaufort scale of educational excellence". You are welcome to help. An interesting point is that the same relational scale applies throughout a child's education. In other words, you won't need a whole battery of standardized tests, each intended for specific grade levels when every parent and teacher is trusted as a witness of growth. And there is no stopping point in the development of craftsmanship.

My train making students asked, "Can we take these home today?" And it is important that children have that kind of feeling about their work.


  1. Richard Bazeley7:51 AM
    Dear Doug,
    It is the same story in Australia. The Government now begins to realise that if you reduce your manufacturing base then it affects your defence capabilities. It's like if you close all your school Tech rooms then you havent got any builders or plumbers. That's alright we can put them in the army and send them to Iraq and Afghanistan. Wait a minute, I see we have a problem?
    Richard B.

  2. "The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."
    --John William Gardner

    If we have become a nation of idiots, it is not due to neglect of science and philosophy but of the manual arts.

  3. JJ Deal4:42 PM

    Doug, you know that Oakley is NOT going to be satisfied or rest UNTIL he has a chance to build that desk. That has to be a notch on your scale, no? Students exhibit a hunger for learning...when nothing else will fill the void for them.

    I don't know how to quantify it yet, and probably I can't. But it is surely one of the indicators we're looking for, isn't it? It's not an input either. His excitement is a by-product of his experiences in your class. Isn't that the goal we all should have as teachers? To instill the love of learning in our students?

    Sorry, more disjointed thoughts...but I keep track of 'em all and someday they will connect...I'm convinced of it.



  4. JD, I think you are exactly right and you've helped me a lot by mentioning the word "goal." We have goals for our kids, but also need to take note when they have developed goals for themselves. That is a marker that should be mentioned as a part of the scale.

    Now a days, educators set goals for themselves of getting their kids ahead on test scores, but that's not the same as seeing goals set by kids that are directed toward real accomplishments.

  5. Richard Bazeley5:23 PM

    there is what I call the "Spirit of Creativity" in young people that needs to be kept alive. It is a spirit that exists within us all and helps us to learn and try new things. I am constantly reminded by my students how strong that spirit can be despite the years of struggle they have with growing up. Students can experience success in our area that they can't find in other subjects. The Arts and Crafts still has a roll to help keep that spirit alive and help students like Oakley.

  6. JJ Deal5:24 PM

    Doug, YES, that is very true. OK, here's something that is REALLY missing from the education system, then: students setting goals for themselves. As it stands now the goals are all imposed from above. It doesn't work very well when we have to work towards a goal that SOMEBODY ELSE has set. I don't know about you (well, I probably do :), but I will work MUCH HARDER at a goal I've set for myself than I will for a goal someone has set FOR ME. So, a Beaufort scale degree ought to be how students set goals for themselves, how realistic they are, but more importantly, how they achieve them. BUT, a caveat...we've all seen students who set goals that we think are way beyond them, but darned if they don't achieve them!!!

  7. JD,
    Most kids are asked about goals only once, when they inform high school counselors whether or not they plan to go to college. From that point, a script is put in place that determines which classes they will take. In our local high school, important math classes for college enrollment are set up as the exact same time as music, so we've forced lots of students to leave band. Isn't that the dumbest sort of thing... And you can't take construction arts if you are preparing for college. And all this is driven by compliance with "standards."

    Having goals is a child as craftsman thing.

    Richard, I think your term "spirit of creativity" is a good one. And most students in school are not "spirited," but rather repressed. Spirit comes out in creativity or as a darker form.

    I had a chance to see what passes for "spirit" when I went by our library looking for a book at the same time the teen program was happening. The kids had been on their "best behavior" in school and so when they are let out, they are undisciplined and rude. I overheard a couple after my wife had to talk with them. If they were my kids, I'd have taken away all their toys and sent them to bed with a swat and no supper.