Tuesday, January 07, 2014

the irksomeness of education...

Thorstein Veblen wrote an essay about the instinct of workmanship and the irksomeness of labor, 1899. As a sociologist and economist, of Norwegian descent, he had made a study of the leisure class and wrote about the marked contrast between the human inclination to take pride in workmanship vs. the strange societal aversion to ever becoming engaged in labor. It makes for some interesting reading. Humans, it seems, are conflicted in schooling as well. We love learning, and we seem to hate being taught. We take pride in having demonstrated our abilities to do difficult things, and will endure incredible hardships in order to do so, as long as we're not being forced or as long as it can take the guise of athletics or play.

The photo above is from Jean Lee Hunt's book A Catalog of Play Equipment, 1918. Play seems to be the last thing on educators' minds these days, but play and workmanship have the capacity to lure children into learning. The great stupidity of modern education is that we fail to use play to its most natural advantage.

Make, fix and create...


  1. The photo accompanying this entry (as well as the one to the most previous entry) got me thinking. Both show relatively young children working with their hands, using the tools of the day that any craftsman would've been familiar with. The modern equivalents to the hand tools hanging behind the bench (table saws come to mind) would not be safe nor suitable for a young person, and most crafts people no longer understand how to use or maintain the hand tools which would be suitable. Yet another overlooked cost of the "wonders of modern technology". As recently noted on another blog I frequent, the (typically ignored) cost of much of our technology typically outweighs the benefit, yet our society can't seem to get enough of it.

  2. David, I am reminded of an article in Time Magazine in which the writer, after mentioning that he was an "avid gamer" (as though that's something to be proud of,) talked about having purchased his two year old daughter's first lap top. (a charming photo showed her using it) He extolled the benefits of hand and eye coordination, even though she would have no understanding of what went on in the innards of the machine.

    Little did he realize, (as an avid gamer) that you could acquire hand and eye coordination by using scissors.

  3. Doug--
    I would say "You nailed it!" but your joinery is always better than nails!
    I don't comment much, but please take this reply as applicable to all you write!
    -- Tim