We are now, in American Schools, pushing kindergarten students to read and as a result create children in which reading is a chore and task to be avoided rather than the pleasure of opening the whole world for their examination.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book the Outliers tells that most professional hockey players are born in the months between November and February, because at the time of enrollment in youth hockey programs by year in school, those students are the largest and most well developed, and have a clear advantage in early play. Once you are promoted or demoted based on ability and measured unfairly against peers, it seems the die is cast. But children are not clockwork, and schools have their ways of imposing as many limitations as can be imagined, in that instead of opening to children's unrestricted natural abilities, they run kids through like the developmental clockwork they truly are not.
What is the answer? Remove standardized testing. Make schools and teachers more cognizant of the ranges of natural development. Make classes multi-year, thus allowing children who are struggling with a difficult subject greater time to get it at their own developmental pace and without being made to feel stupid. Promote late blooming.
So how does all this relate to woodworking? To make something from wood is dependent on a confluence of developmental markers. Strength of hand and mind, as well as dexterity in both hand and mind. One must be able to conceptualize a series of interrelated steps toward a goal and focus clear attention on each step. But there are those who have come to the wrongful conclusion that hand work is mindless. It is not.
I have begun using counting on fingers with students to help them to better remember and conceptualize the steps required for making wooden objects. This is using the part of their brains, the intraparietal sulcus, in which both counting and control of the fingers takes place. We are having profound effect in that students in the first second and third grades are remembering the steps without me having to repeat them individually for each student. Can you imagine how this same process could be applied in math? It takes only four steps to factor a quadratic equation and most math problems can be solved single-handedly.
The way it works is this... When the first step is described, the student touches the little finger with his or her thumb. When the second step is described, the student touches the second finger. Proceeding on, when the student reaches step five, the thumb alone is held in the air. Using both hands up to 10 steps can be memorized and remembered. My first, second and third graders made it up to step 6 in making pinwheels last week with almost no repetition of instruction.
American educators have claimed that our poor performance in the PISA studies is due to the poor who drag down scores in urban areas. A new study co-written by a professor from the University of Arkansas has found that even students in affluent suburbs are severely lagging behind schools in other developed countries like Finland, Norway and Japan. This study indicates that we can no longer blame urban non-white school children (or their teachers) for the failure of American schools to meet international standards.
"Being from an affluent suburb, unfortunately, is not a guarantee of world-class performance," --Jay P. Greene, the 21st Century professor of education reform at UA.On a more pleasant subject, there is a small scale agricultural revolution taking place in the suffering city of Detroit. What greater pleasure can one find than seeing the things one has planted and tended grow to fruition and economic value to one's community?'The Gift Of Detroit': Tilling Urban Terrain by Jon Kalish
Make, fix, create and plant...