Thursday, August 08, 2013

the sharpest tool...

Boxes ready for finish sanding
A reader, in response to my post on Ockham's  (also Occams) Razor, tweeted that it's the sharpest tool in the woodworker's tool kit. Good point. In fact, a very sharp point indeed. There is a relationship between Ockham's razor, parsimony, and simplicity, that is particularly relevant to both craftsmanship and modern education. How do we keep things simple? How do we learn to perceive the essence of a thing when it is obscured by complexity? Imagine the rushing river of technology we all face! Kids these days may have sophisticated technological devices before they can think and be competent in (after all, the device is intended to require no skill or developed expertise) their use long before (if ever) they are trusted to handle a knife.

In educational Sloyd, they regarded decoration of form as being a means of distraction from learning to achieve the essential beauty of form. You can hide poorly fitting joints by putting carving on a piece. Woodturners are much more likely to discuss form, because in a turned object, form stands out. But when objects are comprised of a variety of parts, each with its own form, achieving beauty of form becomes a more complex issue. So it is good to keep withdrawing one's attention from complexity toward the simple, whether you are crafting a large piece of furniture, or turning a simple form on the lathe.

So it is, too with ideas. The human inclination seems to be the overcomplication of things. The purposeful withdrawal into simplicity pays dividends both in the world of form and in the world of abstract notions. In simplicity we may find truth. But modern education tends to be all in the wrong direction. Educators created elaborate structures for measuring the student's growth, and making the teachers and schools more accountable for learning, but in that layer of complication, the simplicity of the child's most normal and natural inclinations to learn are lost in abstraction. The child cannot even relate to his own learning.

For anyone interested in the ways complexity can cloud truth, read through volumes of testimony, rebuttal, surrebuttal, all posted on the APSC website under docket 13-041-U. Yesterday was a big day in the case, and you can read my own surrebuttal here.

In the wood shop, I'm doing the inlay on the bases for the Arkansas Governor's Quality Awards to be presented in September. I'm doing two in order to simplify and not need to take time to make another next year. I am also ready for the finish sanding of boxes. To witness progress observe the photos above and the same boxes shown below. Unfortunately, modern education only considers progress in learning when expressed and made complex through artificial means... either written or in the form of tests... both of which are artificial constructs and a step away from the simplicity of effort and real work.Its why so many kids can hardly wait to get out of school and engaged in the real world.

Make, fix and create...

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