Saturday, March 23, 2013

most of us...

Most of us have some experience of being completely engaged in something to the point that time stands still. It and we as sense of separate-self may have disappeared into the woodwork, a state that athletes would refer to as "being in the zone," or that Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called "flow." If you've not experienced it yourself, you may have witnessed it in others. It can happen in athletics, or in the wood shop, in instrumental music, in the kitchen or in the garden. Yes, it can even happen in computer programming. Ask Bill Gates.

I am reminded of one of my first high school students when the Clear Spring High School first opened in 2001. Bastian had decided to use gaming software to create a complete digital version of the high school building and grounds as a place for aliens to have war. He took photos to enable him to duplicate all the textures. He measured the grounds to the inch, to perfectly recreate the inside and outside dimensions of the building. The wood shop and tools were included. To see Bastian at work was to witness a relentless lightning blaze of staccato on the keyboard. Now, you're unlikely to find a computer program that still can play what he created, but such a simple illustration can describe how learning can be a total engagement of self. Front and center. And yet we create schools in which students are held at the sidelines and periphery of their own learning.

The hands serve as a metaphor for complete engagement. All hands on deck!  If man is as Alfredo Bosi says, the symbolic animal (and he surely is), it is the hand that serves as the symbol for the total engagement of man. We know that when we learn hands-on, we learn more deeply and to greatest lasting effect.  And so it is by the purposeful, deliberate, strategic engagement of the hands that we get a grip on learning and a firm grasp of educational reform. Not by stilling Bastian's hands on the keyboard, suggesting that he do better, more purposeful things, but rather by unleashing the fury of his engagement... recognizing the passion he has for his work and giving space for it to be done.

And so the hands are symbolic of important things, whether on the keyboard in flurious strokes, or kneading dough as one's sense of separate self is lost in the anticipation of sharing bread with others, or as we dig deep to make room in the soil for new growth. The hands and the total engagement of self that the hands prescribe, and symbolize provide the key to educational reform. Engage the hands, and the heart follows.

I have been reading about the collapse of Chicago public schools and cannot help but wonder why Duncan was chosen by Obama as the secretary of education. More and more standardized testing for all our nation's schools are not what the hands prescribe.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. hello,

    I've been following your blog for some time now; thank you for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us, your words on creative expression, manual dexterity and your questioning on how to create the best education possible for our students, are always a source of joy and sincere contemplation