Saturday, March 01, 2014

real cultivation of the mind

Children at play with saw horse.
As described in David Whittaker's book on Sloyd, Salomon's view was that
"Real cultivation of the mind has nothing to do with learning vast amounts of usually prescribed facts. Education, cultivation of the mind means what is left when we have forgotten what we learned in school. As a logical consequence of this, Salomon thought it advisable to reduce the number of subjects taught at school -- he used the expression 'concentration of teaching'."
In other words, it was learning at greater depth that brought the development of character and intellect. Proper subjects for teaching in schools  in Salomon's view should fit the following criteria:
  1. Does it suit a child's capabilities?
  2. Does it excite and sustain thirst for activity?
  3. Is is capable of being used at home and elsewhere?
  4. Does it engender respect and pleasure in manual labour and dexterity?
  5. Does it train in habits of exactness and self-reliance?
  6. Does it foster cleanliness and neatness?
  7. Does it instill a sense of form?
  8. Is it a benefit hygienically, e.g. by compensating for passivity?
  9. Does it allow of methodical arrangement and progress and development of skills and patience?
  10. Does it exercise bodily skills particularly those of the hand and eye where visual sensations plan an important part in developing understandings?
At the moment I'm interested in number 8 from the list. Is passivity characteristic of problems related to children's health? Is the general level of passivity practiced as a discipline in schools counter to the needs of all children? We know this to be true and very few policy makers care to do anything about it.

I thank David Whittaker for this list, and the reminder that Educational Sloyd was not just about woodworking, but about developing the whole child toward realization of his or her full human potential. For provincial Sweden, Salomon's ideas were ahead of his time. But as David Whittaker points out, the world at large was almost ready for a new view of education... just as we should be.

Make, fix, create, and model the joy that others can also find in self-directed discovery and growth.

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