Tuesday, January 01, 2013

if you are reading this...

If you are reading this, you are living a life unimaginable to 99.9999% of all the human beings that have ever existed. In parts of the world there are still folks living the way our recent ancestors did, but for all of us in the computerized world, things seem to be dramatically different in every way.

My wife, daughter and I went to see the movie Lincoln, and it was a reminder of how close our past is to us to see Daniel Day Lewis, on his knees playing Lincoln tending the fires in the White House.(There's a humility in it, that one would no longer expect in Washington, DC.) At this point we have machines to do all miriad things for us, and have thus become out of touch with the lives that were lived by almost all those before us.

It should be no surprise that things get confusing when it comes to education. We, who have never dealt with such complicated things before, are challenged to prepare our children for a future that has never existed before and will forever be unknown to us, just as the lives we live now have never been. (If that sentence is confusing, rest assured, it was intended to be.)

And so, we are concerned with success, and isolating its components,  focusing on the qualities of character, our investigation stimulated in part by reading the book How Children Succeed.

The book points out that there is no clear framework for character development in schools. It is evidently harder to fix character than to fix test scores. And yes, as schools have become so focused on the bottom line of standardized testing, have brushed aside such things as the arts, recess, athletics, and other parts of education that come closer to approximating real life, matters of character development were brushed aside. Character development is a thing that happens when children are exposed to elements of real life and are held accountable to meeting reality face to face in some measured dosage, not the virtual world held out as the future of modern education. Wood shops, by the way, were one of the ways that students learned character, which was always crucial to craftsmanship.

I know that some were bothered that I came out so aggressively on the subject of gun violence. In all this, I am reminded of twin boys in my high school, who were always fighting in the halls, bullying smaller children. I knew to keep a safe distance from them because I would have been pulverized. If there was a fight after school, it was near certain that one of the twins would be at the center of it. Later in the school year I learned that the twins were enrolled in a class that would make them even more of a danger to the rest of us. Oddly enough, the twins developed confidence, gentleness, discipline and respect from their training in Karate. They were invited to demonstrate their mastery of the subject by the principal, and held up as an example as they broke boards and bricks on stage. They developed "character," and while that didn't happen in school, at least the school principal recognized its value.

Character is not a requirement for owning and using guns. There is no test of sanity, no test of moral fiber, no requirements that one be trained in any way, no expectations of maturity or of intelligence. As one last challenge to those who believe that guns must be a part of our lives, or that more guns are the solution to gun violence, I ask that guns not be allowed in the hands of those who are not to be trusted in their use. If you want to have them, keep them locked up. If you want to sell them, invest heavily in the development of character of those to whose hands you will entrust  them. There is a direct causative link of failed responsibility in the chain of gun violence. There should be requirements of training and of character for those who want the responsibility of owning guns. Just as the twins in my high school were made gentlemen of finer character by training in the martial arts, those who want guns to be a part of our culture, need to invest heavily in screening and training so that only gentlemen (and gentlewomen) have access to guns.

Happy 2013. I am excited about the new year. The proposal for my book, Hands-on, Hearts Engaged is in the hands of my agent. I am starting a new book on Beautiful Boxes, that will focus on the principles and elements of design in making boxes. School is going well, and my school program, Wisdom of the Hands, will be featured in Arkansas Life Magazine this week. Here's my greatest wish for us all... That we get in touch with our own creativity and share what we discover with kids.

Make, fix and create...





1 comment:

Dave Bennett said...

Your twins had someone older and wiser to guide them towards character. As a nation born of weaponry, there in no such entity when it comes to gun ownership for most people. Where I live, on a rural Kansas farm, most kids grow up knowing about gun safety from their parents. But the majority of gun owners have not had the guidance necessary to be responsible weapon owners. We live in a nation that touts its weaponry as a key to its greatness. Our nation has demonstrated the "might is right" principle repeatedly. Our nation stands beside Iran and North Korea as one of the three nations unwilling to renounce land mines. Our heroes mark their successes by the notches on their "guns". Until we have a fundamental change in our leadership, we cannot have a change in our citizenry. As long as the citizenry keeps promoting the kind of leaders we have, I'm afraid we are stuck, except for doing what we can on a small, local scale. ☹