Friday, January 04, 2013

risks and diversity...

From this month's National Geographic, an examination of the genetic roots of exploration:
"The first time a human ancestor used a rock to smack open a nut, she opened the way to a culture that may have increasingly selected for genes underlying dexterity and imagination."
One of the purposes of modern education is that of keeping children safe, by restraining their natural inclinations to explore. The stupidity of it all is that this inclination to take risks, to explore diverse interests and capacities is the doorway through which we, as human beings have survived.

Today I will be working just a bit on my box guitar, as I need to keep one jump ahead of the class. My students have all kinds of ideas to make their guitars different in ways both creative and personal, and it helps if I've walked down that road myself for at least a ways.

Modern public education asks that our children be "standardized" in intellect, character, and understanding. It ascertains their standardization through a series of tests.

Crafts (and art), on the other hand, ask, under most circumstances, that children explore, and diversify, meeting their genetic necessity. Instead, our schooling pushes us to become such idiots, enslaved to our standardized devices, manipulated by advertising, and bred to complaisance? Don't like all that? The answer for many kids is to drop out.

The photos above and below show the finished drawers for my old Shopsmith, model 10 E. They hold all the accessories I own, plus offer additional storage for other things. This is the Shopsmith my dad bought me for my 14th birthday. While my own shop will never vie for the championship of most wonderful workshops, making things neater, more beautiful and more efficient offers immense satisfaction.

Reuben sent an article by Marion Brady, Why Schools Used to Be Better.It tells this story:
You enter a checkout lane at Walmart, Target, or other big-box store and put your purchases on the counter. They’re scanned by a device that reads bar codes and translates them into data fed at the speed of light through fiber optics cables to corporate headquarters and distribution centers.
The data produced by the bar code readers keep track of inventory, determine appropriate staffing levels, provide feedback about advertising effectiveness, and much else that guides decision making. Those in Washington now shaping education policy are certain that what data tracking does for business it can do for education.
But there’s a problem. Kids don’t come with bar codes, and teachers don’t have scanners. Nancy Creech, the Michigan kindergarten teacher who recently told her story here on The Answer Sheet, summarized a consequence of data-collecting mandates. Authorities in her state, unwilling to trust her professional judgment, require her to give more than 27,000 grades or marks to her 4- and 5-year-olds. That number, evenly distributed over the school year, would require her to take a data-related action every two minutes of every school day!
This, of course, is ridiculous — almost as ridiculous as assuming that machine-scored standardized tests produce important data about the mental ability and future potential of those who take them.
Make, fix and create...


  1. As I used to tell my students, the tests can be standardized, but the people can't be. Beautiful old Shopsmith, by the way.


  2. Mario, I agree, the Shopsmith is lovely.Over the years, I've seen many old ones from the 50s that had been tricked out by their owners, and when I leave the planet, I'll leave this one behind, having been tricked out by me.

    It works better today than when my dad bought it for me used in 1962.