A touchstone is a small tablet of dark stone such as fieldstone, slate, or lydite, used for assaying precious metal alloys. It has a finely grained surface on which soft metals leave a visible trace.
As a metaphor, a touchstone refers to any physical or intellectual measure by which the validity or merit of a concept can be tested. It is similar in use to an acid test, litmus test in politics, or, from a negative perspective, a shibboleth where the criterion is considered by some to be out-of-date.
And so what can serve as a touchstone of education? The idea of a touchstone as an assaying tool is that it offers concrete evidence of material reality. What looks and feels like gold may indeed not be.
Educational Sloyd suggested that learning start with the interests of the child, and just as on the surface of dark stone, interest can be seen in a child's attention. If you don't have it, you are wasting your time in trying to teach.
The following is from educational psychologist Jerome Bruner:
"In so far as possible, a method of instruction should have the objective of leading the child to discover for himself. Telling children and then testing them on what they have been told inevitably has the effect of producing bench-bound learners whose motivation for learning is likely to be extrinsic to the task--pleasing the teacher, getting into college, artificially maintaining self-esteem. The virtues of encouraging discovery are of two kinds. In the first place, he child will make what he learns his own, will fit his discovery into the interior world of culture that he creates for himself. Equally important, discovery and the sense of confidence it provides is the proper reward for learning. It is a reward that, moreover, strengthens the very process that is at the heart of education--disciplined inquiry."I am headed home from Phoenix, and will have one day of box making before leaving for the ISACS Conference in Louisville, KY where I'll make a presentation on the Wisdom of the Hands.
Make, fix and create...