Tuesday, November 08, 2011

ordinary teachers vs. artisans

In the ordinary school environment, language and math have been given the upper hand, while those who have taught manual arts were afforded a status in some cases more or less akin to that of the school janitor. In an ideal world, the janitor would be granted profound respect, though in too many cases we've been taught he should not be.

In the theory of Educational Sloyd, Otto Salomon outlines a number of reasons that Sloyd should be taught by an ordinary trained teacher rather than by a trained craftsman or artisan, but his argument is not that one is better than the other at what they do, but that their objectives differ. The craftsman must look at the economic development of the object, while the teacher must be trained to foster the development of the child.

His most compelling argument however, for the teachers of the common school subjects to be also the teachers of sloyd is as follows: Salomon had noted "the scholars of London and Stockholm were wont to look upon their artisan teachers with indifference and contempt." Even at a young age and in such early times the social divide pitting the mind against the hand had taken its toll.
"From a social point of view... it is of vital importance that the ordinary teacher of the school be employed to teach this subject, for he is looked upon with great respect by his scholars--in many instances with profound respect--and whatever he puts his hand to, the scholars will not only not be ashamed to do, but rather take a pride in doing."
A tragic and disruptive divide between classes is even more true today than it was then. The blue collar/white collar divide has been in place for so long, and children have no longer been trained in simple crafts while in their homes, and would likely have no sense of the value of trained hands, and have no idea of what they and their own intellectual development will have missed.

The important point of reassurance that can come from this, however, is the understanding that one need not be the perfect skilled craftsman to effectively teach woodworking or some other craft to children or to find value in it, or to be of great service in doing so. The teacher wishing to teach the dignity and value of all work, and to convey the intelligence that comes most naturally from working with hands, need not wait for prior development of any particular skill as an artisan to do so. You need to be a good, caring teacher, but you need not be a craftsman yourself.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A friend was sitting in a class at a community college in Washington years back as the teacher said that the US was a classless society. Rather than argue, my friend asked the teacher, "Do you shower before or after work?" It put the issue into very clear perspective.

Mario