Monday, February 18, 2013

Harper High School shop class?

Harper High School in Chicago was featured on This American Life. It's not Newtown, CT. The children were not in elementary school and they were poor, not middle class, but in one year, last year, 29 current and former students were shot, which ought to be enough cause for outrage in America. This American Life visited Harper High "to get a sense of what it means to live in the midst of all this gun violence, how teens and adults navigate a world of funerals and Homecoming dances."

Harper High, courtesy of Google images
As I am one who believes that we either engage the world passively, or actively, and in addition, if active, follow either creative or destructive inclinations, I wondered whether Harper High has a wood shop. Of course you cannot learn everything you might want to know from Google. The image above from earlier generations (and from Google) is not necessarily Harper High in Chicago. But it gives a glimpse of an earlier time in which high school students were creatively engaged and when they knew that when you make something useful and beautiful you've recast yourself in the image of the creator.

You will find nothing on Google about Harper High School wood shop,  shop classes, or industrial or manual arts. You will learn that the school is located on S. Wood St. and that's about as close as we get.  You will also find a photo (above) that shows where kids sit passively at desks, and you can probably remember what that's like, waiting for the bell so you can get out of that place.

When it comes to wood shop and the kinds of tools that form the cutting edge that divides creative inclinations from destructive acts, it seems that most schools including Harper High have given up the ghost.

Thomas Carlyle (1785-1891) said:
"Man is a tool using animal. He can use tools, can devise tools; with these the granite mountains melt in light dust before him; he kneads iron as if it were soft paste; seas are his smooth highway, winds and fire his unwearying steeds. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all!"
But schools, we create as sterile, "safe" environments within which children are isolated from their own creative capacities and around which in some cities children are too often shot or shot and killed. To ignore our human inclination to express ourselves through the use of tools is foolish. But which tools do we want to encourage, those that offer creative capacity, or those which present the specter of untimely death? If guns are merely tools, as some claim, let's at least not lie to ourselves about the death and destruction that they are intended to accomplish. And if there is indeed a choice over whether we are to be creatively engaged or destructively inclined, let's ask, "what is the consequence when no creative tools are ever placed in the hands of kids?"

Joe sent the following link to an op-ed in the New York Times, The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools. Unfortunately, the article never mentions exactly what that secret might be. Joe suggests it might the the hands. I think he may be right.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:02 PM

    I also listened to the Harper High School Pod cast and was absolutely stunned. These kids are living in a war zone an hour from my home. A wood shop that allows for creativity and a sense of calm may be a small step but its a step