Thursday, February 06, 2014

defining character...

If character is one of that things that children should  develop in school and in life, how do we define it? It is not a simple thing. Character demands that a child be able to work alone on a goal until it is completed to a level of satisfaction that meets both the child's expectations and those shared within a larger group. At the same time, character requires children be able to work effectively with others in complex teamwork. They must be able to put aside their own immediate concerns and impulses to work effectively with others. Real life requires children to put their own needs and inclinations aside to work for a higher good. Why should schools demand anything less? In order to do that, they must have developed a number of interpersonal skills and understanding of themselves and an interpretive foundation for understanding others.

These are aspects of character that are seldom measured in school grades and never by standardized test performance, but that will be measured as performance when children are suddenly thrust against the wall of expectations in the real world.

Wood shops in schools offer students the opportunity to work independently, developing follow thru and self-reliance. They also offer the opportunity of working cooperatively with others.

The fact that we learn best when we learn hands-on, is no mystery to most folks. It is no surprise. It has been proven in research, that children learn best and to greatest lasting effect when they learn hands-on. Nearly anyone who's learned anything with any depth can describe the effectiveness of learning hands-on. The only true surprise is that educators fail to make use of that which we know to be true. And perhaps it is the shift in character that accompanies hands-on learning that lends it the greatest effect. When you have been changed by an experience of learning, you are most likely to remember it.

Unfortunately waste and the excesses of consumer culture have become the defining character of our nation. It's what we teach in too many schools. iFixit calls for a revolution. I echo their call.

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

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