Sunday, January 23, 2011


The following is from Felix Adler's address to the National Conference of Charities and Correction, Buffalo, July 1888, and while it is lengthy, it describes a component of education that is ignored by most in American education. As a box maker, I appreciate that Adler uses the making of a box as his example to describe how will is developed.
"All that has been said thus far converges upon the point that has been in view from the beginning—the importance of manual training as an element in disciplining the will. Manual training fulfills the conditions I have just alluded to. It is interesting to the young, as history, geography, and arithmetic often are not. Precisely those pupils who take the least interest or show the least aptitude for literary study are often the most proficient in the workshop and the modeling-room. Nature has not left these neglected children without beautiful compensations. If they are deficient in intellectual power, they are all the more capable of being developed on their active side. Thus, manual training fulfills the one essential condition—it is interesting. It also fulfills the second.

"By manual training we cultivate the intellect in close connection with action. Manual training consists of a series of actions which are controlled by the mind, and which react on it. Let the task assigned be, for instance, the making of a wooden box. The first point to be gained is to attract the attention of the pupil to the task. A wooden box is interesting to a child, hence this first point will be gained. Lethargy is overcome, attention is aroused. Next, it is important to keep the attention fixed on the task: thus only can tenacity of purpose be cultivated. Manual training enables us to keep the attention of the child fixed upon the object of study, because the latter is concrete. Furthermore, the variety of occupations which enter into the- making of the box constantly refreshes this interest after it has once been started. The wood must be sawed to line. The boards must be carefully planed and smoothed. The joints must be accurately worked out and fitted. The lid must be attached with hinges. The box must be painted or varnished. Here is a sequence of means leading to an end, a series of operations all pointing to a final object to be gained, to be created. Again, each of these means becomes in turn and for the time being a secondary end; and the pupil thus learns, in an elementary way, the lesson of subordinating minor ends to a major end. And, when finally the task is done, when the box stands before the boy's eyes a complete whole, a serviceable thing, sightly to the eyes, well adapted to its uses, with what a glow of triumph does he contemplate his work! The pleasure of achievement now comes in to crown his labor; and this sense of achievement, in connection with the work done, leaves in his mind a pleasant after-taste, which will stimulate him to similar work in the future. The child that has once acquired, in connection with the making of a box, the habits just described, has begun to master the secret of a strong will, and will be able to apply the same habits in other directions and on other occasions."
In Time magazine this week, the lead article is about "Tiger Moms" who literally drive (and drive) their children toward Mom's idea of success. What Adler is talking about is the development of internal rather than external motivation that emerges from the gradual unfolding of will. The following is from the article on "tiger moms:"
"In the 2008 book A Nation of Wimps, author Hara Estroff Marano, editor-at-large of Psychology Today magazine, marshals evidence that shows [tiger moms are] correct. "Research demonstrates that children who are protected from grappling with difficult tasks don't develop what psychologists call 'mastery experiences,' " Marano explains. "Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they've learned that they're capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals." Children who have never had to test their abilities, says Marano, grow into "emotionally brittle" young adults who are more vulnerable to anxiety and depression."
In other words describing the absence of will. As our schools have cut funding for the arts, AND wood shop, our children in schools have only two remaining areas in which to seek, demonstrate and acquire mastery. Reading and math. You do it in schools and attempt to demonstrate it through test scores. Can you see how we've become a nation of ignorant pinheads? (Definition of a pinhead... someone whose area of expertise can be confined to the head of a pin.) And all this in a time when our children should be learning that learning is without bounds.

Instead, Make, fix, create. DIY, and since the schools won't teach it to your kids, TIY.

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