Thursday, January 30, 2014

William James...

We get one view of things if we are detached from every day reality and yet another if our paths meander between encounters with natural processes and materials. There is importance to be found in the human attempt to make objects of useful beauty. William James wrote the following in 1899:
“I already said something of this in speaking of the constructive impulse, and I must not repeat myself. Moreover, you fully realize, I am sure, how important for life,—for the moral tone of life, quite apart from definite practical pursuits,—is this sense of readiness for emergencies which a man gains through early familiarity and acquaintance with the world of material things. To have grown up on a farm, to have haunted a carpenter's and blacksmith's shop, to have handled horses and cows and boats and guns, and to have ideas and abilities connected with such objects are an inestimable part of youthful acquisition. After adolescence it is rare to be able to get into familiar touch with any of these primitive things. The instinctive propensions have faded, and the habits are hard to acquire.

"Accordingly, one of the best fruits of the 'child-study' movement has been to reinstate all these activities to their proper place in a sound system of education. Feed the growing human being, feed him with the sort of experience for which from year to year he shows a natural craving, and he will develop in adult life a sounder sort of mental tissue, even though he may seem to be 'wasting' a great deal of his growing time, in the eyes of those for whom the only channels of learning are books and verbally communicated information.”-- William James, Talks To Teachers On Psychology; And To Students On Some Of Life's Ideals
This may sound like the same old ten penny nail driven home to the same joint. So perhaps my readers would get bored with what I have to say. Like James I repeat myself. You need not read every post to get the message. It would be far better for my readers to put time in on more creative enterprises. If you are past adolescence, put yourself in relationship with primitive things in an examination of real life and bring your children and grandchildren along with. Later in the book, William James discussed a concept he called "fogyism". We turn into old fogys before our time, and in James interpretation it comes around age 25. Certainly, anything that William James expressed would be regarded as coming from an old fogy, and anything I say at this point would be regarded in the same way.

Those who have been educated only from books and media are prone to examine the world and come to an understanding of it only through the means most familiar and comfortable to them. James explained this as a matter of apperception. We see apperception at work when we read only bits and pieces of information in a string of text and assume its meaning from only a small part of it, based on our previous encounters with similar things. It is extremely hard to break old habits and see the world as it  really is, and in its full blazing glory.

Pestalozzi, Froebel, Cygnaeus, Salomon and William James each believed that the education of the child should begin with the engagement of the senses. The use of the senses was to lay a foundation for the child's inquiry into the workings of real life. That power to perceive directly from a thorough examination of reality, rather than by endless re-interpretation of second and third hand interpretation, gives a child a direct link to his or her own creative powers.

On a slightly different subject we are grooming our children for the death of our planet by failing to engage them in fixing things. We deny their natural powers and inclinations when we surround them with things that they can't make, and could never fix. We inform them that things that have been made only have value while new, by providing an endless stream of new and ever more useless stuff. is offering a solution. The organization recognizes that recycling should be the last resort, and is not an answer to what ails our planet or our communities.

Make, fix, create, and help others to do likewise.

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