Thursday, May 26, 2011

educational waste?

At left is a preview of a box I'm making to illustrate box making techniques for Fine Woodworking Magazine. The article will instruct on a variety of box making subjects including the making of the pull and feet used in this box.

The following is from John Dewey:
"A large part of the educational waste comes from the attempt to build a superstructure of knowledge without a solid foundation in the child's relation to his social environment. In the language of correlation, it is not science, or history or geography that is the center, but the group of social activities growing out of the home relations. It is beginning with the motor rather than with the sensory side... It is one of the great mistakes of education to make reading and writing constitute the bulk of the school work the first two years. The true way is to teach them incidentally as the outgrowth of the social activities at this time."-- from The University Record, The University of Chicago Press, 1896
I don't believe most Americans would know how important John Dewey was in the international arena with regards to education. He was certainly well known and admired throughout Scandinavia, and perhaps some of my international readers would comment on the importance of John Dewey in their own countries. Here in the US, it seems Dewey is largely forgotten, as we have designed the structure of American education to be so contrary to what he had in mind.

In Finland schools, as I've mentioned so many times before, they don't bother with reading until the students are 8 years old. Here in the US, we are pushing reading in kindergarten, which had been invented as a method of learning through play. Talk about twisted! We've got both Froebel and Dewey rolling over in their graves. By the time students in Finland reach 8th grade, they far surpass American students in reading with 38% fewer years devoted to the subject. In Finland students in the earliest grades do all those things that Dewey had proposed including wood shop, and the results should be telling us something.

Some of these things are not hard to fix. Give teachers better training in the fundamentals and educational theory. Allow them greater autonomy in making learning fun and correlated with the child's relationships with family and community. Make way for schools to become laboratories and workshops for hands-on learning. I call this the strategic implementation of the hands.

This morning we had the end of the school year program at the Clear Spring School, "the Celebration of the Child". It is hard to believe that another school year has passed. Now I have a summer filled with teaching, and writing and making.

You may know that I love discovering new things, and today I needed to make a new jig for cutting miter key slots in the corners of boxes. While making the new jig, as shown in the photo, I also discovered a new way to easily position boxes on the jig, by using measured blocks between the box and the slide that fits in the miter gauge slot. It is easier now for me than ever before, easy to repeat set-ups using the same blocks, and it will be a treat to share this new technique with my summer classes at the Kansas City Woodworker's Guild, ESSA and Marc Adams School of Woodworking. This new technique also eliminates the need for clamps and clamping stop blocks in place on the jig. If I make box making any easier for my students, it may take all the challenge out of it and they may have to turn to making small cabinets to keep their growth of skill challenged. The photo shows the new jig, box with miter key slots complete, and the 4 blocks used to position the cuts. The three thicker blocks position the height of the cut from the top of the box, and the thin block is used to raise the box so that the blade will not go as deep on the adjoining cuts.

Make, fix and create.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very ingenious jig.
About schools, the head of the state's Regents, the authority over all schools, was quoted in the paper saying that our local schools have sunk so low that he thinks they're a candidate for the state to take them over completely. If only that would lead to schools doing a better job.

Mario