Friday, January 17, 2014

raising an army of mothers...

a box for Wood Magazine
It is interesting that when men and women have spent a lifetime on the planet and then pass away, their lives are distilled into a few catch phases (if they are lucky enough for that), Bartleby's at best and most of what they've contributed will be reduced to nothing more than a dusting of their intent, if that. So it was with Friedrich Froebel. Having discovered the role of mothers as the child's first teacher by watching young mothers engaged with their kids, he proposed Kindergarten as a way to formalize that relationship and give young mothers greater power and purpose in their work. Kindergarten was to last from the period of 3 months to 8 years of age. A whole planet full of young mothers were set to work, many of them becoming professional "Kindergartners" empowered with Froebel's gifts and music to raise or help raise intelligent, caring and compassionate kids. But Kindergarten was reduced as a concept to just a beginning year of formal schooling. It was not at all what Froebel had in mind. The gifts became ritualistic devices for 5 year old children to manipulate in school, and were later abandoned. Kindergartens today in the US are not even a shadow of what Froebel had in mind. Forget play. These days the standard practice is to force readiness for reading and math in a Machiavellian race, push comes to shoving our children into a future that we can only imagine, but that they must face and that we leave them unprepared for.

Schooling has always been at cross purposes. On the one hand, politicians and administrators would like children to be easy and inexpensive to manage. The management of kids is not the same thing as educating and empowering them. My own community has been described as the place where the misfits fit. Folks come here having re-imagined themselves. And we are not ready to surrender to the humdrum of the status quo, the beauty of this place.

Today the administrative law judge ruled in favor of the power company, AEP/SWEPCO and oh, what power they have. But the ruling was not a complete approval of their preferred route. While the power line would run through our community, a large portion of the route approved by the judge would skirt the state of Arkansas by passing into Missouri, a state in which the power company is not licensed to operate in the first place. In addition, the selected route would require Missouri regulatory approval, which would mean a lengthy process, asking the state of Missouri to approve a power line that would be of no use to Missouri residents. For the Missouri Public Service Commission to approve a super highway of electric power through some of the most pristine forests in their state, with no on or off ramps to serve Missouri residents would be stupid on their part.

Kindergartens were thought to be such a serious danger by the Kaiser, that he attempted to shut down Froebel's Kindergartens as a danger to the state. And today, too, progressive education in which children are empowered as critical thinkers is a danger to the machinations of the status quo.

Throughout the AEP/SWEPCO powerline debacle, I've witnessed the machinations of power at work. A small community stood up against that power and was partially successful. In the wood shop, I have the capacity to take matters and material into my own hands. From this small island, I hope to launch a movement in which young mothers will take on the mission that Froebel had imagined for them, and in which young fathers, wanting to give their children their best launch into the future will encourage them as makers. Making Froebel's gifts for your child, will make a maker of you, too.  And there is danger in that. When a major corporation like AEP/SWEPCO wants to run an unwarranted extra high voltage power line too near your own home, and knowing your own creative power, you might feel inclined to say no.

Carl Sagan was critical of our nation's schools for failing to give students opportunities to develop critical thinking skills. He believed that there was method to their madness, in that those with critical thinking skills offer a threat to the status quo, being less complaisant and more manageable by corporate concerns. How do you develop critical thinking skills if you were of a mind to overthrow the status quo? Try wood shop... making beautiful and useful things that last generations.

I've been sanding a box and 4 lids so that they can be finished tomorrow and sent to Wood Magazine for their article on various lift lid designs.

Make, fix, create...  and teach others to do likewise even if they thence become threats to the status quo.

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