Monday, June 08, 2015

avoiding the mechanical

Bent wood boxes in process
The following is from Froebel's Gifts, 1895 and helps clarify effective education through this warning:
The kindergartner often forms his sentences for the child, over-directs him when he is matching colors, gives names to the objects he constructs without waiting for him to do so, moves his blocks, sticks, tablets, rings into more accurate position, changes his spacing when incorrect, rearranges his inventions, selects the colors for his parquetry work, — and all for what reasons? Primarily, to produce a better effect, it is probable, glorying in the consciousness that the work on every child's table is exactly right, and blind to the truth that uniformity must always be mechanical; and secondarily, to quiet her own feeling of impatience, which sometimes comes from nervous exhaustion and sometimes from an over eagerness to get a quantity of work done regard less of the method by which it is obtained. There is a thirdly, too, which is that the inaccurate work, the awkward designs, the unfortunate blending of colors which the little one inevitably makes at first, so offend her artistic eye that she trembles with eagerness to set them right, forgetting that by so doing she is imposing her superior taste upon the child and thereby failing to develop his. We shall never see this matter clearly, nor know how to bear with the crudity of the child's work, until we learn that the crudity is natural and therefore to be respected, and that it is in a sense beautiful after all, for it is a stage of being.
There are similar dangers in most instructional work. Distance must be left between teacher and student, so that both mistakes and discoveries can be made. Knowing the value of mistakes and discovery the teacher with educational tact, sets up a situation in which real learning takes place and then allows the student to learn by choosing not to interfere too much.

Yesterday in my ESSA class making Scandinavian bentwood boxes, we tried bending some spalted maple which immediately cracked when wrapped around the form and despite having been boiled for a sufficient length of time to soften the fibers of the wood. Part of the problem is in the maple which is not known for its bending capacity. Some of the problem may also have been in the fact that the maple, being spalted was partially decayed, thus weakening its fibers. We will remember our lessons better for our having tried and failed, than if we had success right off the bat. But best was that my students used their own minds to help determine the line of cause and effect.
"Of course, there is great difference between the disciplinary value of that study in which the pupil solves his own difficulties and that teaching in which the teacher accompanies the pupil, supplying the needed information or suggestion at every step of his progress. The latter is not worth much for character building for the reason that it is not apt to become a part of the organized self. . . . The school cannot afford to expend much energy in acquiring such knowledge." (Geo. P. Brown.) –Report on Correlation of Studies by Committee of Fifteen. With annotations by Geo. P. Brown.
 Make, fix and create...

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