Monday, January 24, 2011

expanding an understanding of our hands...

I have a busy day with 4 classes and I'm a bit nervous as to how it will go, introducing some new things and keeping some students turning bowls on the lathe, which is always a bit scary until I get them in the groove.

I know you all are also busy, and so I thank you all for taking my interests seriously.

I am thinking back to a few years ago, when research was announced that drew a connection between math performance and instrumental music. The side of that that most people seemed to get was that music and math are connected. Music is mysterious and math for some is also mysterious, and so at a first glance, we would naturally jump to the conclusion that the research proved the connection between music and math, which I for one would never doubt.

But there is something more in it, and that is the word "instrumental" which implies the use of musical instruments, which further implies the use of the hands. The hands are generally ignored, because in their most cognitively efficient use, they have to be. And so people would not look at that research and say "My God, it's the hands!" Which is what might happen if you have a "hand centric" view of reality as do those of us who are concerned with the Wisdom of the Hands.

So one of the things one might do to expand the dialog, and bring the hands into further consideration in research would be to expand the range of tools considered and the types of people utilized in the research, drawing a connection between the performance of instrumental music and the cutting with a chisel of a dovetail joint,  making a series of precise bends with pliers,  knitting a scarf, or doing an intricate braid. I am reminded of being at the seaside market in Helsinki and watching a woman knit gloves. It is something that could be performed inside an MRI machine with non metallic needles and might offer research possibilities further illustrating the role of the hands in development of intellect.

The early research on music and math made people think, "We need to have music in school." You can see how far that got us. But an understanding of the hands would make a person think, "We need to have the hands in schooling." Which offers a much more fundamental  all inclusive shift in education. The hands need to form the cutting edge of all learning in order for it to be most effective and valuable to all students. For as Jacob Bronowski said, "The hands are the cutting edge of the mind."

I hope you all have some time to think about all this. Can some of the existing body of research on music be replicated using common creative tools employed by craftsmen to better illustrate that it is not just the music that makes the man, but the HANDS that make the music AND make the man?

In the photo at left, you can see legs for a small cabinet being marked for mortises to be cut. It is important that each leg be carefully marked even though the mortiser setup including stop blocks will be responsible for the accuracy of the process. It is very easy to get confused when the machine is running and you get into the pattern of cutting one after the other.

Make, fix, create.


  1. Anonymous10:54 AM

    Than you, for the thinking you provoke.


  2. Mario, I truly value the friendship and encouragement of those few readers who have been with me on this blogging adventure since the beginning. Back in the earliest days, I would have one or two visitors a day. Now I have hundreds each day, and the readers come from all over the world. At some point, I will fall silent and plan to leave a general public fully cognizant of the values of hands-on learning. Then there will be those who will go right back to where we this started, and then someone else will notice a few things about their hands. It is like being in a Disney moving and celebrating the "circle of life."

    It seems that some things are happening in the natural swing of things from one extreme to the other. And so we are reading more in the media about shop classes and all that we have arranged to do away with.

  3. Anonymous10:43 AM


    You've started something valuable, and I have no doubt it is gaining strength. You don't have to feel like the lone voice in the wilderness.