Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rising Above the Gathering Storm

Evidently, my use of a Beaufort Scale is appropriate, as others see the challenges of American education as a "Gathering Storm". You can download the .pdf version of the book Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future through the link above. I don't make a specific recommendation of the 582 page book, but know that when you look at learning from the vantage point offered by the hands, there is something useful to be found in everything.
The rise of new international competitors in science and engineering is forcing the United States to ask whether its education system can meet the demands of the 21st century. The nation faces several areas of challenge: K–12 student preparation in science and mathematics, limited undergraduate interest in science and engineering majors, significant student attrition among science and engineering undergraduate and graduate students, and science and engineering education that in some instances inadequately prepares students to work outside universities.
The situation for K-12 is dire, and the universities are worse. Being competitive in science and math requires that children actually be engaged in it. Making things serves at the core of exploration of material reality, and thus engagement in crafts serves as the most essential building block of science education. If we've become a nation of idiots more or less we should know that our hands and their engagement in learning are the solution one way or the other.

Industrial arts teachers have been warning about this "gathering storm" for decades as they watched wood shops in which kids did real things being replaced with "technology education" in which kids were often bystanders observing the effects of packaged learning modules. Industrial Arts Revisited: An Examination of the Subject's Continued Strength, Relevance and Value by Kenneth S. Volk was published in 1996. I am reminded of earlier research in which students were tested to see whether they learned industrial arts as effectively through lecture format as through actual use of machinery. I neglected to make note of the location of that research and if any of my readers knows how to find it please send me a link. For me, it raises the question,
"How finger blind would a person actually have to be to not know that we learn best, and retain learning longer when we have been engaged in learning through our own hands?"
The strategic implementation of the hands in learning offers the most reasonable and effective course for "Rising above the Gathering Storm."

Today I was at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts for the Eureka Springs Artist's Studio Tour,  demonstrating the assembly of small boxes. I also finished fitting the bridle joints as shown in the photo below. Now the glass doors are ready for assembly with glue. The bridle joint is exceptionally strong and particularly useful in making small cabinet doors. I also like it for its craftsmanlike qualities. You can see the intricacy of it, and while you may have no idea of the operations used to form the joint, you CAN see how it works.


Richard Bazeley said...

The 1996 work by Kenneth S. Volk is interesting in that he talks about the "study of Technology" and "hands on learning" as clearly two seperate areas and both of educational importance. It would be interesting to read any current ideas he has on this subject. Do you know were he is now?

Doug Stowe said...

His last known employment was the Hong Kong Institute of Education and the most recent paper I found on-line was 2005. You can find more of his published papers on-line. Search for Kenneth S. Volk