Saturday, July 28, 2012

putting youth to work...

I am often amazed how few good ideas we have here in the US when it comes to engaging our youth in their futures and in our future success. This article from NPR, The secret to Germany's low youth unemployment, describes the role of German industries in putting young people to work. KP in VT asked in a comment below in which he provided this link, "Why can't we do that?" It seems that American industries are too often divorced from social concerns, but that could be fixed. Instead of stripping human resources to bare bones, American corporations could make a decision to invest in our children's futures. We should hold them accountable for doing so.

In working with my adult students, I notice that some have particularly well developed hand skills and some do not. Skill is not just a matter of how the hands are placed on the work or on the tool and their ability to go through the motions required but also of how the hands sense and impart what's happening with the tools as wood is cut or shaped. It is one thing to do the right thing as you are instructed to understand, but skill also requires sensing whether or not the right goal is actually accomplished as the hands do what they are instructed to do. Getting an early start in the development of this sensitivity lays a foundation for the availability of skilled hands throughout a child's life. The following is from Gustaf Larsson's 1902 book, Sloyd:
The eminent English scholar and scientist, Sir James Chrichton Browne, tells us that certain portions of the brain are developed between the ages of four and fourteen years by manual exercises alone. He also says, "It is plain that the highest functional activity of these motor centres is a thing to be aimed at with a view to general mental power as well as with a view to muscular expertness; and as the hand centres hold a prominent place among the motor centres, and are in relation with an organ which in prehension, in touch, and in a thousand different combinations of movement, adds enormously to our intellectual resources, thoughts, and sentiments, it is plain that the highest possible functional activity of these hand centres is of paramount importance not less to mental grasp than to industrial success." Again he says, "Depend upon it that much of the confusion of thought, awkwardness, bashfulness, stutterings, stupidity, and irresolution which we encounter in the world, and even in highly educated men and women, is dependent on defective or misdirected muscular training, and that the thoughtful and diligent cultivation of this is conducive to breadth of mind as well as to breadth of shoulders."
This is a thing that should be researched, and it would be interesting to develop a means to test Crighton-Browne's hypothesis with modern students. Do fingers sliding over glass, (our current preferred engagement in technology) gain the sensitivity required to do work with real materials in case at a later point in life, one would desire to gain skill in real work?

Make, fix and create...

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