Thursday, February 20, 2014

same thing over and over again...

Making a triceratops
I was talking with an editor yesterday and one of the topics was that it is difficult to come up with really new material in woodworking and the field for publication of articles and books has narrowed due to the vast number of previous articles and the availability of old books that can be downloaded for free. If you are just interested in knowing how to do things the old way, and have a digital reader available, you need not spend a cent for new content.

The same can be said about readings in education, but by ignoring what we all know to be true about child development, educational policy makers can pretend each day is a new day, as they proffer new schemes for academic success. William James wrote the following in 1899, as a guide to what teachers would find as their best psychological tools for shaping student success.

First of all, Fear. Fear of punishment has always been the great weapon of the teacher, and will always, of course, retain some place in the conditions of the schoolroom. The subject is so familiar that nothing more need be said about it.

The same is true of Love, and the instinctive desire to please those whom we love. The teacher who succeeds in getting herself loved by the pupils will obtain results which one of a more forbidding temperament finds it impossible to secure.

Next, a word might be said about Curiosity. This is perhaps a rather poor term by which to designate the impulse toward better cognition in its full extent; but you will readily understand what I mean. Novelties in the way of sensible objects, especially if their sensational quality is bright, vivid, startling, invariably arrest the attention of the young and hold it until the desire to know more about the object is assuaged. In its higher, more intellectual form, the impulse toward completer knowledge takes the character of scientific or philosophic curiosity. In both its sensational and its intellectual form the instinct is more vivacious during childhood and youth than in after life. Young children are possessed by curiosity about every new impression that assails them. It would be quite impossible for a young child to listen to a lecture for more than a few minutes, as you are now listening to me.” - William James, Talks To Teachers On Psychology; And To Students On Some Of Life's Ideals, 1899.
The fourth "native reaction" James discussed was that of imitation. We can go through each of these quickly one by one.  The first two are the tools of the "tiger mother." She gives milk and so her cubs have a strong dependency upon her, but she withholds affection unless certain conditions are met... that her cubs meet certain goals, and because she's a tiger, her cubs know and are fearful of her wrath. Her cubs will not disappoint.

Curiosity and imitation are the true tickets to lifelong learning, for they lead to what James described as emulation, ambition, and constructiveness. But curiosity is fragile. It can be squelched when children are placed in environments in which their natural inclinations to do real things are placed under serious constraint.

Make, fix, create, and set the example that others may emulate.

1 comment:

  1. Love the picture of the two kids using a "misery whip," as my logger friends called it.