Monday, April 18, 2011

In so far as possible...

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, 4th, 5th and 6th grade students will begin making abacuses, and the high school students will return to projects we temporarily abandoned for last week's Turning Around America experience. The following is from Jerome Bruner's book On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand.
"In so far as possible, a method of instruction should have the objective of leading the child to discover for himself. Telling children and then testing them on what they have been told inevitably has the effect of producing bench-bound learners whose motivation for learning is likely to be extrinsic to the task--pleasing the teacher, getting into college, artificially maintaining self-esteem. The virtues of encouraging discovery are of two kinds. In the first place, he child will make what he learns his own, will fit his discovery into the interior world of culture that he creates for himself. Equally important, discovery and the sense of confidence it provides is the proper reward for learning. It is a reward that, moreover, strengthens the very process that is at the heart of education--disciplined inquiry."
The hand is constantly seeking the truth and thus finding it. If we want our schools to succeed in their goals, and for students to grow toward success in life, we must ask for a revolution in which classrooms are replaced by laboratories and workshops, in which students can pursue both the arts and science and discover themselves. Bruner's book was written in 1964. Charles H. Hamm's book Mind and Hand, proposing the solution I seek was written in 1886. Imagine what our schools would be today if we had applied wisdom to education when it was first available to us. The photo above is from 2003 and the 7th and 8th grade class making birdhouses of their own design. The photos at left show today's upper elementary class project, making abacuses for the study of math.

1 comment:

  1. Do you know what they call someone who uses an abacus? An abacusser.