Friday, December 09, 2011

what difference does it make???

Some of my readers may wonder what difference it makes whether human intellect first arose through the use of the hands or through man's verbal-linguistic capacity. That is the current argument going on between followers of Noam Chomsky and those who are exploring the roots of human intelligence in the use of the hands. It is actually an interesting intellectual battle which rests upon the presumed supremacy of the academic mind. If we knew more about the development of intellect, that understanding could alter our expectations as to what children should be doing in school. Is it enough that they be taught reading and math? Or should they be instructed in other things, like art, laboratory science, music and wood shop. This last sentence was in the form of a question, but one posed without a question mark, as I believe we all know what the answer should be.

If every aspect of human intellect arose through our capacity for speech, then reading ought to be enough to fill the bill. But many of the greatest minds point to the wide range of activities through which human intellect is developed and expressed. If we wanted to encourage the wide range of intellect and full development of our children's minds, our schools would be workshops humming with music, noise, self-directed developmental activities of all kinds, all well beyond the capacity of standardized testing to record.

One of the things that we find in schools is that the activities are made for one hand or the other, with the right being the preferred hand. And as the left (or right) is neglected, left untrained for much more than holding the paper in place as the dominant hand holds the pencil or pen, we are missing out on important components of brain integration that lead to human intuition, or in German, fingerspitzengef├╝hl, which means having the appearance that all knowledge is at the tips of one's fingers. It is no coincidence that this term for the full expression of human intuition would be described in the language of the hands.

When thinking of human intelligence we rarely think of human intuition as an expression of it. German Field Marshal Rommel, the "dessert Fox" was described by as having fingerspitzengef├╝hl as he eluded the British in North Africa, but his feat was not a matter of divine intervention but one of integration of the two hemispheres of his own brain. Through the integration of his left and right hemispheres he was able to maintain what appeared to be an extrasensory grasp of the minute details and a simultaneous sense of the whole range of battle. Of course you could say this is just woodworker's speculation, but it has been observed by others. This phenomena was what Jean Jacques Rousseau was describing when he said,
"Put a young man in a woodshop, his hands will work to the benefit of his brain, and he will become a philosopher while thinking himself only a craftsman."
And so, if you are paying attention, you will know why we need to turn our schools into workshop/laboratories, where children are making things, doing experiments, learning hands-on, playing instrumental music, each activity engaging both hands. Children may feel a powerful, intuitive capacity as they slide one finger over glass, but real fingerspitzengef├╝hl arises when children are engaged in their learning hands-on, both hands, and with their hearts engaged also.

So, yes it does make a difference understanding how human intellect arose in the first place.

Today Gary Junken and I will finish the Building Small Cabinets DVD. We may have just a few voice-overs later to finish up and meet a February deadline and spring release.

Make, fix and create...

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