Tuesday, October 05, 2010

education for whole life...

I have been on the subject of schools for some time, and I guess because I teach, and am the son of a kindergarten teacher, and am very concerned about where we are going with schools and schooling, that I become carried away. But it is most important to remember that the hands are not just for school. They are not just for learning, but for shaping our whole lives from the inside out.

While in ages past, our survival was dependent on hand-skills, we seem to have engineered our lives so that is no longer so. But have we also engineered our psyches and souls to the same conclusions?

This morning a friend sent me the following quote which tells me that the message is getting out...
Put a young man in a woodshop, his hands will work to the advantage of his brain and he will become a philosopher while thinking himself only a craftsman. ---Jean Jacques Rousseau
I love that quote. It describes the development of both wisdom and humility. You can't spend much time in the woodshop as an egotist. You learn the necessity of plans b, c, d and f as you wrestle with mistakes of your own making and that you develop the strength of will and character to overcome. but to have this quote come back to me in this exact forms tells me that the blog is being read and that its ideas are being shared.

I have found this quote from Rousseau's French text Emile usually translated as "workshop" (atelier) rather than "woodshop", except when translated from French to Swedish and then to English. And so I have made a point of using the French to Swedish to English translation. Also when translated direct from French to English, it is most often "scientist" rather than "philosopher." Which also makes an important point... that the hands-on explorations of physical reality are the absolute foundation of science. And so, if we become a nation of idiots we will have only the failure to recognize the cognitive qualities of our hands to blame. If you look at your own hands and your own experience you will see that the hands-on learning in schools can have serious implications long beyond the school years and far beyond its walls... even touching and giving meaningful shape to the whole of life.

John Grossbohlin sent another interesting link from the Wall Street Journal, How Handwriting Trains the Brain
Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.

It's not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.
It is an extremely interesting article. Thanks, John. But does any of this have benefit in the day and age of standardized testing and push button text? It seems, yes, it does: Steve Graham, professor of education at Vanderbilt University sites several studies "indicating that good handwriting can take a generic classroom test score from the 50th percentile to the 84th percentile, while bad penmanship could tank it to the 16th." Better practice my cursive!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:37 PM

    But back in the days of Rousseau, weren't scientists considered natural philosophers?