Monday, August 03, 2015

death of shop class

That shop classes have been endangered in the US will not come as any surprise to most of my readers who are likely amazed that any remain at all. Early in the Spring, one of my friends who taught wood shop and tech ed at a small high school north of Springfield, Missouri, was told that his program was being eliminated. And so it goes... one program after another for years.

An article posted today in the Daily Kos addresses the "death of shop class," and a long thread of comments were posted in response. The very sad thing is that many with educational credentials do not know how children learn, and are unaware of the impact that the engagement of the hands can have on learning. The author of the article notes that:
Between the attacks on public education and the well-meaning emphasis on academics due to the federal No Child Left Behind initiative, which has induced high schools to shift resources toward core subject areas of math and reading, shop classes like machining, welding, and robotics are being crowded out. The very classes that allowed me to actually understand the Pythagorean theorem or Newton's Third Law are the very classes that are on the chopping block. We will always need people to be able to weld, fix cars, and other trades and these jobs should not be looked down upon, nor should they be looked at as second tier jobs.

Originally there were two motivating factors and two distinct models in the 1870's origins of the now nearly dead manual arts movement. The Russian system of Victor Della Vos was intended to train bodies to fill job openings in the rapidly growing industrial sectors in various nations. The other model from Sweden and Finland, Educational Sloyd, recognized the relationship between the hand and brain in learning and proposed manual training as a part of the general education for all students, and for all sectors of society. It recognized that both character and intellect were developed through the making of beautiful and useful things.

When the US decided that we would have a "service economy" in an "information age," and it was OK to surrender the trade wars to cheaply manufactured imported goods, and that people skilled in trades were no longer a necessary outcome of education we reached the pinnacle of educational stupidity.

We cannot count on any of the "smart" people in politics and academia to understand the role of the hands in learning, so we must take matters into our own hands.

Make, fix, create, and encourage others to do likewise.

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