Thursday, August 04, 2011

beginnings of manual arts in US...

In 1868 Calvin Woodward was authorized to organize an engineering department for Washington University, and the story is told by Charles A. Bennet as follows:
As professor of mathematics in the University, he taught a class in applied mechanics. Because his students found difficulty in visualizing some of the forms under consideration, he asked them to work out the forms in wood. He arranged with the college carpenter, Noah Dean, a fine mechanic, to supervise them in this work. To Professor Woodward's surprise, he learned that the students didn't know how to do the simplest things with the woodworker's tools. He was surprised because he himself had used such tools from boyhood and so took it for granted that his students could do the same. The fact that they could not, presented to his alert mind a new problem. Instead of giving up his plan for helping the young men to visualize the fundamental mechanical forms, he proceeded to teach them how to use tools. Thus it was that Professor Woodward was first led to the teaching of shopwork without any direct or immediate trade or industrial motive, though that appeared soon after.
And so, if you can imagine the problems in Woodward's day, you can see the same problems today. Children are given a wide range of entertainment devices but little or no direct hands-on experience in the manipulation and use of real tools, leaving them unable to do diddly squat. If we wanted children to grow up to design things and make things, we have left them crippled intellectually instead. Some are saying the United States has seen better days. I can say that our children were better prepared for life when schools had woodshops and children were taught hands-on, and at this point in the widely proclaimed failure of American education it is best that we take matters into our own hands. Our current situation is very much like what Woodward faced in the 1870s.
...the acquisition of this desirable manual skill requires workshops and tools and teachers; and as such essentials are not in general to be had at home or at the common school, the work must be done at a polytechnic school. Hence, at the earliest possible moment, in the lowest class, students must enter the workshop.
That means establish model programs like the Wisdom of the Hands at CSS, clarify the rationale, and train teachers to offer hands-on learning to every child in every school in the US. Anything less would be a disappointment.

Make, fix and create...

With my daughter's furniture fixes complete, and my orders shipped, I turn my attention to being ready to teach next week at Marc Adams School.

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