"What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy."－John Dewey.And so, if you were to make an assessment of what American schools should become based on the schools that the presidential candidates chose or have chosen to send their own children, what you would find would be schools vastly different from what they propose for the rest of our kids. For instance, Belmont Hill, where Romney sent his sons, offers woodworking and a variety of other arts you will not find in most schools. At Belmont Hill you will find classes averaging 12 students or less even though Romney claims that size doesn't matter. There, the annual tuition cost is $34,500, or nearly 5 times the amount of money allocated per child in American public education. But don't expect either candidate to ask for the kinds of support that schools would need in order to offer the education to all that they chose for their own children. President Obama's children attend Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, a great school where the current tuition rate is $32,069 per child and they maintain a class size of 10 in the lower grades. And there you find what is the great shame of American education. We've long known what it takes to bring the best education to each child, and are unwilling to make that investment.
Most of the early educational theorists in both Europe and the US believed that the education of the hand was as essential as the education of the mind, and that the most successful education of the one could not come without the other. Augustus Herman Niemeyer was a professor of Theology at the University of Halle who proposed that education should promote the harmonious development of all the faculties with which man is endowed. For this he recommended the use of manual arts:
"Aptitude in various handicrafts strengthens the body, and, at the same time, provides a useful form of activity, and serves to occupy the weary, idle hours, especially in the monotonous existence of the household. They can be altered to suit the season. The best of occupations－which cannot be too highly recommended－is gardening, which which almost everywhere, and especially in the country, offers most convenient and most agreeable opportunities. Health is gained; the young gardener learns to labor "in the sweat of his brow"; he lives in close contact with Nature, and learns her laws and her methods better than from books; he has to exercise patience; he teaches himself through his errors; he witnesses a creation of his own in miniature, springing up under his eyes; he finds from experience how much it is worth to enjoy the fruits of his own labor. And at other times other handicrafts, especially mechanical ones, afford entertainment, teach handiness, and exercise the body (and mind). Carpentry is acknowledged to be the most suitable of all, on account of the complexity of the work and the tools, and because it does not put too great strain upon the strength of the young... Above all, it is well that the young should become familiar with the ordinary tools of a household, of which, moreover, one has such constant need－for example, the saw, axe, gimlet and hammer, etc. To keep these things anxiously out of the children's reach is the most certain way to reduce to helplessness, and, in the time of need to make them more liable to injury."Bentonville ArtWalk on Friday and Saturday where I will be selling my work. As you can see in the photo above, my jewelry boxes are almost complete.
Make, fix and create...