Monday, October 10, 2011

tufted titmouse...

This morning I will worked with the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students at Clear Spring School in an assembly line making stamp trucks to illustrate a bit of economics. They will sell the desk top toys to raise money for school travel. This afternoon I had box making wood available for students ready to begin cutting dovetails for box sides. I allowed some to take a break from box making by turning on the lathe as shown below.
As I went for a walk last night I was thinking about art history and how it is used in colleges and universities to offer a sense of mastery to non-artists. What follows is my blog post from Tuesday, October 02, 2007:

There is a thing that happens in the naming and identification of things. You observe a bird in the back yard, and you say to yourself, "tufted-titmouse," and you gain a sense of satisfaction in your own knowledge and mastery of information. But the ability to name the bird differs from the ability to fly.

There is a great deal more going on in the bird than is revealed by the identification and naming of its external form. The naming and identification is either a stopping point, or the point from which greater and deeper analysis and understanding can ensue. For most, the naming is the end of knowledge rather than its beginning.

Many art history courses in universities are designed to impart a sense of intellectual mastery of the arts, so that from an academic perspective the student can feel a sense of ownership of the subject without ever being required to handle a tool or a brush. Too often education stops at the neck. You see it, you hear it, you process it in the brain, and you recite the common concepts, and the discussions of those who have devoted their lives to the critique, classification and analysis of great works allowing you to participate confidently in discussions while expressing a sense of mastery and superiority you do not have.

Anyone wanting to look more deeply at the origins of academic dominance over the arts might want to read Barbara Maria Stafford's book, Artful Science. She can turn a phrase to challenge the best of academicians.

A sincere look at the hands, and serious examination of what they can impart to learning at all levels could awaken us to much more. It would be very easy to read all this and assume that I have an anti-academic bias. The truth is that I have profound respect for academics, but I also know that they are enriched and brought to greater life when the hands take their place as full partners with the head and heart. Any questions? My arguments won't be enough. Pick up a knife and a stick. Invest your time and attention. A steady hand, sharp steel, and slender shavings express an understanding beyond words. See if something occurs to you. You might feel silly (and awkward) at first. Learning something new or reengaging something near forgotten can do that to you. It means you have stepped beyond your comfort zone. Those feelings are the sign of the heart breaking its common boundaries as learning begins to take flight.

Do not allow yourself to be stopped at the naming and classification of things. Take learning into your own hands.

Make, fix and create...

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