Wednesday, November 27, 2013

having forgotten the younger child...

Colonel Francis W. Parker
It seems that once kids get to high school age, parents and administrators panic and begin thinking of career and technical education if their kids aren't college bound. But educators have traditionally overlooked the value of manual arts training for the younger child. The following is from Colonel Francis W. Parker, President of Chicago Institute, 1901.
"In 1883 we started manual training in the basement of Cook County Normal with rude benches, poor tools, and a fair teacher. So far as I know it was the first manual-training school in connection with a normal school. The sloyd had not come to these shores, the kindergarten had been started 14 years, psychology had not appeared, nor child-study. I had a faith that the activities of the child were not duly recognized; that he was intensely active and that he had not enough to work off and develop his energy in the right direction. What to do I did not know, but to so something, I did know.

"They told us—we got it dogmatically—that the little children would have no chance; manual training had begun in the high school. These things always begin wrong end to, and one who reads the history of education can bring that out. We took the little six-year-olders in and gave them woodwork—planes and saws—and it was perfectly plain and we saw at once that the children were getting their birthright. They were dying to do something and we found it out. Blindness to all this consists in excursions and results outside the child. When you look at the child you find what we mean. We have been trying to get at that and we have just begun. I will not go into the details of that, only I never saw a child who did not love manual training and boys and girls love it alike. I would have the boys learn to cook and to sew if that is educative.

"What work shall they do? Our friend Salomon says logical sequence is an error, and yet the sloyd is founded upon it. The sloyd has done an immense amount of good; I do not know what we should have done without it; but the fundamental element, logical sequence, is a fundamental error in all education. It leaves out the child entirely and says he must go through his work perfunctorily.

"In the first place we have learned that the child is full of activity. He wants to put his thought into the concrete—every child, rich or poor. It has been a delight to watch the children who have been unfortunately rich and neglected, who come into the shops. When they find they are to do something themselves, delight seizes their souls; they are full of activity.

"Dr. John Dewey, the great philosopher of the new education, when I asked him years ago, ‘What would you have a school?’ Replied: ‘Industrial’. I agree."
And it seems now with core standards and the like, we are once again looking at superimposed models rather than toward the needs of each child. I, on the other hand, wonder what it would take to help educators in all disciplines, including academic subjects, realize that they might learn something… at least a thing or two from manual arts training. Does that seem like a complete impossibility? Then add to that, the chance that they might learn something from manual training (Sloyd) from the 19th century? That might be a stretch for even the most open-minded educators. It seems we are too educationally inept and over-charged with institutional egotism for that realization to sink in.

Some readers may remember that my own program started as one for high school aged kids, and it was under the guidance of Educational Sloyd that we began to address the active woodworking/learning needs of the younger set.

Make, fix and create...

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