Saturday, October 20, 2012

land grant and the mechanic arts...

We are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act which served as the foundation of our nation's land-grant universities.
The purpose of the land-grant colleges was:
without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.
The land-grant university movement was begun by Jonathan Baldwin Turner, a man who's ideas I've covered previously in this blog.
"...a classical teacher who has no original, spontaneous power of thought, and knows nothing but Latin and Greek, however perfectly, is enough to stultify a whole generation of boys and make them all pedantic fools like himself. The idea of infusing mind, or creating or even materially increasing it, by the daily inculcation of unintelligible words--all this awful wringing to get blood out of a turnip--will, at any rate, never succeed except in the hands of the eminently wise and prudent, who have had long experience in the process; the plain, blunt sense of the unsophisticated will never realize cost in the operation. There are, moreover, probably, few men who do not already talk more, in proportion to what they really know, than they ought to. This chronic diarrhea of exhortation, which the social atmosphere of the age tends to engender, tends far less to public health than many suppose."
"I think the exclusive and extravagant claims set up for ancient lore, as a means of disciplining the reasoning powers, simply ridiculous when examined in the light of those ancient worthies who produced that literature, or the modern ones who have been most devoted to its pursuit in this country and in Europe. If it produces infallible practical reasoners, we have a great many infallible antagonistic truths, and ten thousand conflicting paths of right, interest, duty, and salvation. If any man will just be at the trouble to open his eyes and his ears, he can perceive at a glance how much this evasive discipline really does, and has done, for the reasoning faculty of man, and how much for the power of sophistical cant and stereotyped nonsense, so that if obvious facts, instead of verbose declamation, are to have any weight in the case, I am willing to join issue with the opposers of the proposed scheme, even on the bare ground of its superior adaptation to develop the mental power of its pupils."
"The most natural and effective mental discipline possible for any man arises from setting him to earnest and constant thought about things he daily does, sees and handles, and all their connected relations and interests. The final object to be attained, with the industrial class, is to make them thinking laborers; while for the professional class we should desire to make laborious thinkers; the production of goods to feed and adorn the body being the final end of one class of pursuits, and the production of thought to do the same for the mind the end of the other. But neither mind nor body can feed on the offals of preceding generations. And this constantly recurring necessity of reproduction leaves an equally honorable, though somewhat different, career of labor and duty open to both, and, it is readily admitted, should and must vary their modes of education and preparation accordingly."

In other words intelligence is developed by doing things, by making things, by growing things, not by educational nonsense devoid of engagement in reality. Your own local land grant university may be holding celebrations of the Morrill Act which was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, applying to all states, even those in rebellion against the North. Please join us in celebration of the great forgotten notions of effective education. We learn best, most effectively, most truthfully and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands-on. In my wood shop today I am lining boxes. Make, fix and create...

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