Early in the process of developing a modern educational model, pedagogists like Rousseau and Comenius saw the integral relationship between the mind and hand as an asset to be utilized as the primary strategy for effective learning. But then the classics got in the way. Wasn't it far better, some argued, to disregard the inefficiencies of hand and impart knowledge in the least round-a-bout manner? Put a person of professorial demeanor at the head of the class, pry open the minds through personal magnetism and compelling discourse and pour in the stuff. Then test and see what comes out. In theory, if the students didn't get it, it was because they were intellectually deficient. Now these days a bit has changed. If the children don't get it, it must be the teacher who is deficient. But let's put aside judgment and get a real grip.
There were early educators at the beginning of the 20th century who argued foolishly that because the eyes and ears are closer in proximity to the brain than the hands, the eyes and ears were more effective for learning, but then another serious question arises, "which are closer to the heart?" Place your hands at the center of your chest, and perhaps you will feel something of the truth. In other words, follow John Ruskin's advice to "Take a straight shaving off a plank," for by doing so, one might learn a thousand things of which the lips of man might never speak.
And so, as a consequence we have millions who have not learned the creative capacity of their own hands, and are led by stratagems of American education to believe that skills of their hands are not required. The hands, they think, can be safely denigrated, displaced by machinery and marginalized in American culture.
I can safely suggest that the reasons for American educational failings are directly related to the five fingered manipulatory objects hanging disregarded, neglected and ignored at the ends of dangling useless arms.
This morning I've been chopping onions, lots of them, to make spinach balls to take to a pot luck. Between washing dishes and chopping onions, I have this sneaking suspicion that I could be replaced by a dishwasher and food processor. And yet there are riches to be drawn from the engagement of our hands in physical reality. Engage the hands and learning follows. Engage the heart, and learning never ends.
The following is from Charles H. Hamm, Mind and Hand, 1886:
"It is easy to juggle with words, to argue in a circle, to make the worse appear the better reason, and to reach false conclusions which wear a plausible aspect. But it is not so with things. If the cylinder is not tight, the steam engine is a lifeless mass of iron of no value whatever. A flaw in the wheel of the locomotive wrecks the train. Through a defective flue in the chimney the house is set on fire. A lie in the concrete is always hideous; like murder, it will out. Hence it is that the mind is liable to fall into grave errors until it is fortified by the wise counsel of the practical hand."And so it is that with neglect of such wisdom that we have become a nation of pinheads. Make, fix, AND create.
"It is obvious that the reason of the demand for the manual element in education is not so much that industrial interests require to be promoted, as that mental operations may be rendered more true, and hence more scientific. What we need more than we need a better class of mechanics is a better class of men--men of a higher grade both morally and intellectually. The study of things so steadies and balances the mind that the attention being once turned in that direction great results soon follow."