Saturday, June 20, 2015

hands and normality

The following is from Wikipedia:
Fingers are some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the body, are the richest source of tactile feedback, and have the greatest positioning capability of the body; thus the sense of touch is intimately associated with hands. Like other paired organs (eyes, feet, legs), each hand is dominantly controlled by the opposing brain hemisphere, so that handedness, or the preferred hand choice for single-handed activities such as writing with a pencil, reflects individual brain functioning.
Brain functioning, indeed. It has long been believed by certain philosophers like Anaxagoras, that the hands are the source of human intellect, human culture, and human character. As such, they are governed by biological imperative. The following is from Gustaf Larsson's 1902 book, Sloyd:
The eminent English scholar and scientist, Sir James Chrichton Browne, tells us that certain portions of the brain are developed between the ages of four and fourteen years by manual exercises alone. He also says, "It is plain that the highest functional activity of these motor centres is a thing to be aimed at with a view to general mental power as well as with a view to muscular expertness; and as the hand centres hold a prominent place among the motor centres, and are in relation with an organ which in prehension, in touch, and in a thousand different combinations of movement, adds enormously to our intellectual resources, thoughts, and sentiments, it is plain that the highest possible functional activity of these hand centres is of paramount importance not less to mental grasp than to industrial success." Again he says, "Depend upon it that much of the confusion of thought, awkwardness, bashfulness, stutterings, stupidity, and irresolution which we encounter in the world, and even in highly educated men and women, is dependent on defective or misdirected muscular training, and that the thoughtful and diligent cultivation of this is conducive to breadth of mind as well as to breadth of shoulders."
The consequences of failing to engage children's hands creatively are clear. But the consequences of this failure are not only to the intellect . The hands are also the instrument of moral development through the exercise of craftsmanship. And so the failure to connect the dots between the use of the hands and the development of the whole self places a heavy burden on American culture.

Today I begin a class in making Scandinavian bentwood boxes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. In the meantime, we need to begin a national discussion about the use of tools to engage the minds and hearts of our nation's youth. Removing wood shops from our nation's schools was dumb and destructive, particularly in light of what the original objective of those wood shops was: to develop the character and intelligence of our nation's youth.

Make, fix and create....

Make, fix and create...

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