Friday, January 02, 2015

Active schooling, desireable dexterity...

Paper tearing takes no tools, just the bare fingertips.
I have been feeling a bit strange. Our battle against SWEPCO has been a part of my daily life for 21 months. To awaken with the opposing army having left the field of battle is an amazing thing, leaving me wondering what I am to do next. Definition of self as active or passive is one of the questions that Shakespeare addressed in Macbeth. "To be or not to be, That is the question." When we are actively engaged in effort, the boundaries of self are clarified, expanded, or shrunken, depending on the situation. Fortunately, I have the wood shop and writing to fall back on and plenty to do in a less contentious direction.

My participation in Save the Ozarks has made me something of a local celebrity in ways my woodworking and writing have not. Wherever I go, I receive attention from those who want to celebrate our victory and offer their congratulations.

Today I have a conference call with the attorney who has handled our legal case. I also have work to do at school to prepare for next week's classes, and writing to do for the book. Somewhere at the back of the mind, I'm moving along and adjusting to a new reality in which the multi-billion dollar AEP/SWEPCO is no longer an immediate adversary.

In her book Primary Handwork, Ella Dobbs explained that her book was not to offer ready-made patterns and that her book was intended to offer a framework useful to teachers.
"The ready-made pattern implies dictation on the part of the teacher and mechanical imitation and repetition on the part of the pupil, -- a process almost fatal to spontaneous effort. While it is possible through a method of dictation to secure results which seem, at first, to be much better than the crude constructions which children are able to work out for themselves, it is only a superficial advantage, and one gained at the expense of the child's growth in power to think and act independently. It is an advantage closely akin to the parrotlike recitation of the pupil who catches a few glib phrases and gives them back without thought, as compared with the recitation of the pupil who thinks and expresses his thoughts in his own childish language."
A similar statement could be made in this blog. My purpose is not to propose a set curriculum for teachers to download into their own classrooms and apply, but to offer a few examples and guidance in how the educational lives of children can be enriched through creative and expressive acts.

As we watch children using high tech devices, fingertips racing over glass, we are fooled into thinking they are doing wondrous things. But are they being fully expressive? Without the ability to break down the machine into its parts for their own manipulation and understanding, what have they truly gained by the use of their fingers to trace parrotlike the limited potentialities of what the machine has been programmed to do?

One of the activities described in Primary Handwork is paper tearing. Dobbs says of it,
"Paper tearing serves many of the same purposes sought in cutting, and has several strong points in its favor. Working directly with the fingertips tends to develop a desirable dexterity of manipulation. The nature of the process prevents the expression of small details and tends to emphasize bold outlines and big general proportions. Working directly with the fingers tends also to prevent weak dependence upon certain tools and tends to develop power to express an idea by whatever means is at hand."
Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, Doug, on winning this battle. But the war still wages on and there needs to be a larger strategy to contain it. Could SAVE THE OZARKS become a proactive player in shaping the energy future of Arkansas?