Saturday, March 15, 2014

utilizing the social inclination

The following is from John Dewey, emphasizing the value of the manual arts and collaborative activities in schooling, and literally spelling out a revolution, that we as a nation embarked upon, and then chose to completely ignore as politicians and policy makers became obsessed with standardized testing.
"Upon the ethical side, the tragic weakness of the present school is that it endeavors to prepare future members of the social order in a medium in which the conditions of the social spirit are eminently wanting.

"The difference that appears when occupations are made the articulating centers of school life is not easy to describe in words; it is a difference in motive, of spirit and atmosphere. As one enters a busy kitchen in which a group of children are actively engaged in the preparation of food, the psychological difference, the change from more or less passive and inert recipiency and restraint to one of buoyant outgoing energy, is so obvious as fairly to strike one in the face. Indeed, to those whose image of the school is rigidly set the change is sure to give a shock. But the change in social attitude is equally marked. The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat. Indeed, almost the only measure for success is a competitive one, in the bad sense of that term—a comparison of results in the recitation or in the examination to see which child has succeeded in getting ahead of others in storing up, in accumulating, the maximum of information. So thoroughly is this the prevailing atmosphere that for one child to help another in his task has become a school crime. Where the school work consists in simply learning lessons, mutual assistance, instead of being the most natural form of co-operation and association, becomes a clandestine effort to relieve one's neighbor of his proper duties. Where active work is goings on, all this is changed. Helping others, instead of being a form of charity which impoverishes the recipient, is simply an aid in setting free the powers and furthering the impulse of the one helped. A spirit of free communication, of interchange of ideas, suggestions, results, both successes and failures of previous experiences, becomes the, dominating note of the recitation. So far as emulation enters in, it is in the comparison of individuals, not with regard to the quantity of information personally absorbed, but with reference to the quality of work done—the genuine community standard of value. In an informal but all the more pervasive way, the school life organizes itself on a social basis." -- John Dewey, School and Society, 1899.
You can see the impact of our schooling in social attitudes throughout the US. There is a tendency among some to demonize those they claim to be a burden on society. But if we understand that one of schooling's most important functions is to build society rather than to tear it into competitive units, we begin to understand the importance of wood shops and the manual arts. If we begin to understand the role of the hands in the development of character and intellect we know to ask children to do real things in partnership with others and create collaborative learning environments in which they may do so.

Here in Eureka Springs on March 29, a group of citizens plans to parade with their sidearms openly displayed. It is clearly a case of anti-socialism and public display of false bravado as a disguise for cowardice. In schools we keep pushing the competitiveness between individuals rather than the development of reasonable social interchange, and this, sadly, is what we get, individuals so enamored with their own power to kill, and they will make others uncomfortable in their presence to make a point. How did the possession of dangerous weapons become the mark of bravery, when to act unarmed is certainly a far greater sign of it?

I am holding off on applying finish to the silverware chest for American Woodworker until I have the go ahead from my editor, Tim Johnson. As the chest stands now, I can go back and restage particular shots if necessary. But when the finish is applied, the color of the wood will be transformed and there will be no going back. With the addition of a shaped maple lid lift tab, the chest is nearly complete.

Make, fix and create...

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