Thursday, May 05, 2011

reading vs. doing...

This morning I'm sitting at the computer for a few minutes wondering what to say, that I haven't said so many time before. The hands are not such a complex matter. But they do give shape to every facet of human culture. They have given shape to our natural environment in ways intended and unintended. An early proverb quoted by Comenius in the 17th century was, "We give form to ourselves and to our materials at the same time." And so the question is, "Do we gain knowledge best by reading or by doing?" And I suspect most of us gather a far greater quantity of information by browsing the web, than we would gain by twiddling our thumbs. But another question comes up, leading us in a new direction, "How do we find the truth?"  A passion for the discovery of truth demands action. While I'm at my computer, and you are at your computer, we are missing a few things that demand we get up and examine truth through our own hands.

Today in the woodshop, I began cleaning to prepare for next week's visit by Matt Kenney, and I visited the Clear Spring pre-school to work with the students building an outdoor home for their guinea pigs as shown in the photo above. The children ages, 3, 4 and 5 got their first experience working with hammers. For me it was just plain fun.

Make, fix and create.

6 comments:

Cindy said...

I found this article this morning while glancing through some info on my local Waldorf website.
http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/334/

I left a short comment about Clear Spring School and your blog. Thought you might like to know.

Doug Stowe said...

Cindy, thanks for the link, and thank you for mentioning the wisdom of the hands in your comment on the site.

That is an interesting article. We all see problems but it is hard to know what to do without trying. And somehow in trying more and more becomes clear.

I've written too much today, but I plan to keep the article you sent on my desk top for a time until I've made full sense of it.

Doug

Cindy said...

I used to own a copy of Teaching as a Subversive Activity and I read a portion of it. Some of Postman's ideas have stayed with me and on occasion I am reminded of how his ideas, as well as Gardener's remain untouched by the "system."
My interest is piqued by the idea that the schools should become balancing institutions to the effects of the culture. I also have an article by Dee Joy Coulter called Montessori and Steiner: A Pattern of Reverse Symmetries. Coulter explains how the soft, "feminizing" effect of Waldorf was needed in a "hardened" Germany and how the "normalizing" effect was needed in Italy by children who were lost in their imaginations from dealing with too much that they couldn't understand. Ghetto children in Italy were given the means to enter society.

I believe Clear Spring School has actually implemented most of the ideas that are suggested in the article in ORION. I was taken aback, though, that the author didn't know of anyone presenting a program that lead children from the use of simple tools through more complex tools.

I think it is important not only to lead kids from our primitive past , gently, to the present but to see any number of archetypal activities from start to finish.

Doug Stowe said...

Cindi,
Schools have traditionally had a "normalizing effect." Free lunch programs are one aspect, making up for deficiencies resulting from homes poorly equipped.

You can see that in Finland's schools as shown in the BBC documentary, the teacher describes her role as the child's "school mother," alluding to her three year watchfulness of the child's growth and development.

I forwarded the article from Orion to staff at CSS and they too, were struck by the fact that we are an example of what the article proposes. But we see that a lot. Fortunately, being an independent school and free from state and federally imposed standardized testing, we have greater time for learning and doing things that we know to be in the best interests of our individual students.

Two weeks ago when Beth Ireland was here, she told me about her 7 year old adopted niece, who is very bright and in a public school in Florida. She came home deeply worried about doing well on her upcoming standardized test. Her teacher had told her that as one of the brightest children in school, it was "up to her to raise the overall school scores to improve the school's performance standing." What a twisted notion! Now, with teacher salaries linked to student testing performance, you can see how teachers could begin manipulating even their brightest students in the hope of salary gains. Is that disgusting or what?

Cindy said...

I am appalled at Ms Ireland's predicament and I would not be patient about it. Either the school would see that my child have a more ethical teacher or I would find a way to homeschool her.
My husband and I had ongoing problems with the schools when our daughter was young. We finally gave up and pulled her out at the start of her fifth grade year. We've never regretted it. Within two years, (at ten yrs. old) she had a position at Colonial Williamsburg with pay and benefits, not to mention excellent training. She could do things like observe surgery at our local vets and do fife and drum gigs during the week. This is such a far cry from the stupidity that started with her kindergarten experience.

Cindy said...

I am appalled at Ms Ireland's predicament and I would not be patient about it. Either the school would see that my child have a more ethical teacher or I would find a way to homeschool her.
My husband and I had ongoing problems with the schools when our daughter was young. We finally gave up and pulled her out at the start of her fifth grade year. We've never regretted it. Within two years, (at ten yrs. old) she had a position at Colonial Williamsburg with pay and benefits, not to mention excellent training. She could do things like observe surgery at our local vets and do fife and drum gigs during the week. This is such a far cry from the stupidity that started with her kindergarten experience.