Sunday, July 17, 2011

getting a grip...

I am back home in Arkansas following my family reunion in Lake Tahoe. It was a pleasant break from the hot time of the year in Arkansas. And so now it is time to get back in the shop and to prepare for the following week's class with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts... subject, creative box making, July 25-29.

Some of my students will be beginners and some have informed me that they've already read some of my box making books. I always have fun in the ESSA classes. The class is full with eight students, so it is a smaller class than I teach in some of the larger schools, and each student will receive some personal attention in their box making.

David McNeill, director of the McNeill Laboratory for Gesture Research at the University of Chicago, sent this from an upcoming book, "How Language Began: Gesture and Speech in Human Evolution,"
"The hands are special because of their agility and instantiation in all spatial and temporal dimensions, but the feature that made them indispensible for the origin of language lies in the brain; the proximity, in the layout of the motor cortex, of the manual and oral centers, and the role of Broca’s area and mirror neurons in organizing actions of both centers."
As you know, when one of our senses is impaired, the hands step forward to take up the slack. Just think of Helen Keller and how the hands in her case were able to serve as both eyes and ears providing her with a meaningful life. Our flights to and from Reno had many blind travelers, with white canes and seeing eye dogs. The woman next to me on the flight to Reno was blind. It is a marvel that the hands can serve so well in the loss of other senses and yet be so completely ignored in American schools. The blind travelers were there to attend a conference for the blind, and there were assistants available to guide them through the confusion of the Reno airport terminal where the corridors between gates are lined with slot machines which loudly proclaim "WHEEL OF FORTUNE!"

In a sense, we've become blind in American education through neglect of the hands. Finnish brain researcher Matti Bergström has called the syndrome "finger blindness," a topic I've covered in previous posts. As administrators and politicians scan spread sheets, looking for the rise or fall of standards and statistics, real things have gotten out of hand. Can the situation be fixed? I suggest the strategic, purposeful engagement of the hands. It works. Try it in your own life. The photo above is of one of George Wurtzel's blind woodworking students. George hasn't actually seen her work, as he, too is blind. She had been told all her life that she could never do anything of this kind, but you can too.

Make, fix and create.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Blind woodworkers need to learn that much of what limited them was the well meaning efforts of people around them to keep them from getting hurt. On an only slightly related topic, I'm beginning to get shy requests for woodworking lessons from my sons' friends. They see the things I've made and are curious. I see this as a good sign.

Mario