Sunday, October 21, 2012

the chronic diarrhea of exhortation...

a fraction of over 300 boxes nearing completion
Not much to say here, except that some colorful language has been used throughout history to make the same point which I make over and over again in the blog... We learn best when our hands are engaged and not quite so much of the mouth is used. The chronic diarrhea of exhortation was Jonathan Baldwin Turner's description of the classic form of education where the teacher stands at the head of the class and spews for all he's worth. He stated in his Griggsville address, May, 1850:
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 am reminded of my time in college studying political science, trying to find some meaning in it and sitting through mind numbing lectures. And for most educators in the US, that is the model they have been presented and come to understand as what school is about. Those who learn best in that way are advanced to universities where they take part in the continuing exhortation and become teachers and sustain the faulty methodology to be imposed on others.

If you observe the workings of your own mind (a thing I recommend), you will notice that when listening to a lecture, your own attention will of necessity wander to and fro. When you hear the professor's words and then attempt to translate what you've heard into your own experience or what you've read, that process requires you to cease listening for a moment in order to do so, in which case your professor's words are no longer recorded in your thoughts until your attention is allowed to return. Formulate a question in your thoughts, and you will find that question the more pressing concern than whatever your professor is presenting at the moment. Can anyone in their right mind consider this to be an effective way of imparting knowledge? Many learn from this scenario that they don't like schooling, or being lectured to, or being taught. The irony of course is that most folks find learning outside of school to be fun and that schools have become anything but.

If schools were to be made places where children learned from their own experiences by doing real things, we would discover better institutions and learning cultures to have been formed. One of the best ways to make schools experiential is to make things of useful beauty. Even a simple box can be transformational. Make the box, make the craftsman, and make a school culture with enthusiasm for learning, each and all at the same time.

Jonathan Baldwin Turner was the father of the land-grant university system, now celebrating the 150th anniversary of the legislation, signed by President Abraham  Lincoln, which led to the founding of major universities in each of the 50 states. The land grant colleges were at one time proposed as places where practical learning in the agricultural and mechanics arts might take place as a counterweight to the classical educations in law, religion and philosophy offered in universities. Turner had graduated from Yale with a degree in Philosophy, so he knew the faults of classical education well. After graduation and in the wilds of Illinois, 1833, he discovered the value of a more practical education.

Today in my wood shop, I will be fitting lids to the bodies of boxes. They have been laser engraved and some need the addition of color in the engraved lines to make the image pop. I am using burnt umber oil color brushed on and wiped off to give a uniform color to the laser design, as burnt umber is very close to the color of lightly charred wood.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

Mario Núñez said...

In 37 years of teaching, sometimes lecturing was the only way to get the information across. Lectures, however, don't have to be deadly dull.

Amazing pile of boxes, by the way.

Mario